Today’s healthcare facilities are faced with the growing challenges of inefficient asset management. Increased patient volumes and higher expectations for both patient experience and satisfaction make it difficult to create an efficient, streamlined workflow that utilizes resources effectively. Inventories of expensive equipment are subject to shrinkage from theft and loss. Valuable time is spent searching for misplaced medical devices. Rental equipment often is kept long after it is needed, or unnecessary and redundant assets may have been purchased in the first place. Facilities also face the additional challenge of ensuring equipment is properly cleaned to prevent contamination and potential healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). The CDC estimates that there are roughly 1.7 million HAIs cases each year, resulting in approximately 99,000 deaths and $20 billion in healthcare costs.
Real-time location systems (RTLS) deliver location and condition updates of equipment, patients, and staff within seconds. In increasing numbers, hospitals are transforming their deployment of RTLS systems for basic asset tracking (location visibility) into a sophisticated enterprise location services strategy to achieve complete asset management (optimized and automated asset workflow). According to KLAS Research, an estimated 10 to 15% of hospitals are using RTLS. In a recent study conducted by KLAS, it was noted that 95% of the 150 responding facilities reported operational gains from their implementation.
Enterprise location services can facilitate PAR-level inventory management to ensure healthcare facilities have the appropriate amount of equipment on hand to effectively address patient needs. It is important to note that the accuracy of data provided by an RTLS platform is crucial to an asset management program’s success. For example, only providing estimated location, even if it is within several feet of the actual device, could mean the difference between critical equipment being “found” available in a patient’s room or unavailable next door inside a dirty utility closet (Figure 1). To meet the demands of their high-pressure and fast-paced work environment, staff may resort to equipment hoarding in an effort to retrieve medical devices at the exact moment they need it when treating patients. Constant availability of assets ensures their proper deployment and stabilizes inventory levels by reducing the desire of the nursing staff to hide equipment for later use. This lowers operational cost and eliminates the need for staff to constantly round up dirty equipment.
Courtesy of CenTrak
An enterprise location services platform also has the capability to integrate with computerized maintenance management systems, giving clinical engineering departments visibility to an asset’s location and condition status. From a patient safety perspective, hospitals can be confident that the equipment in use has been properly cleaned and is not currently due for maintenance or part of an active recall. When maintenance, testing, or inspection is due, proactive real-time alerts are sent to the necessary staff members, and equipment can be located quickly.
Acting as a security barrier for high-cost assets, movement is documented and displayed, generating alarms when unauthorized activity is detected. As protected assets approach doors and elevators, a series of escalating alerts and security protocols is deployed, thereby eliminating theft of expensive assets and preventing the additional costs associated with new rental equipment or purchases. Utilizing an RTLS that leverages an open and flexible enterprise location services platform, the system can integrate with elevators, door locks, and cameras, serving as an essential security function.
When clinicians can perform their jobs without being troubled by misplaced or lost equipment, they experience a more streamlined workflow and higher job satisfaction. Knowing exactly where equipment is when it is needed saves essential time and money. However, the value of enterprise location services extends beyond immediate tracking benefits. For example, asset utilization reports generated by the system provide valuable insight into how assets are being deployed on a daily basis, including data on interactions between other equipment, staff, and patients. This detailed information then can be analyzed by the administration to draft action plans for optimized clinical workflow to further reduce costs and inefficiencies in healthcare facilities.
When equipment maintenance or upgrades are due, staff can strategically schedule procedures during off-peak hours, decreasing equipment downtime that is likely to impact the clinical teams. Healthcare facility administration also can be assured expensive assets do not suffer from extensive daily wear and tear with FIFO management, which guarantees equipment is utilized on a first-in, first-out basis as they are used and returned by clinical staff throughout their shift.
The core benefit of optimized asset management is increased patient satisfaction and higher HCAHP scores for hospitals. The patient experience is no longer detracted by staff that is desperately searching for the right medical equipment, minimizing their time with the patient. Reducing inefficiencies in the supply chain and hospital workflow allows the nursing staff to provide faster, better quality care.