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Guest View: Keeping assets in check in healthcare

Eric Lim | Aug. 16, 2013
It is imperative for healthcare institutions to keep track of their mobile assets be it mission-critical equipment or patient care devices.

A wheelchair costs about US$150, but in a week, hospital staff can spend up to thousands of dollars in clinical time just searching for one. The reason for this - staff have difficulty locating and keeping track of the massive amounts and types of hospital equipment being moved around in a hospital.

The task of managing healthcare assets is challenging healthcare professionals all over the world. Financial managers, operations administrators, as well as primary medical care providers all agree that keeping track of mobile healthcare assets all year around, 24 hours a day, is essential for organisational performance and patient care. Today's modern hospital typically has very costly owned or leased mission-critical equipment in service. In any corridor, you would expect to see patient care devices ranging from IV pumps, ventilators, and X-ray machines, as well as other assets such as wheelchairs, stretchers, and gurneys, either moving from one place to another or waiting to go somewhere.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of such equipment are unaccounted for each year - most times, this equipment is written off as missing because they could not be located by overloaded support personnel, nurses, and even doctors. A recent AMR Research report found that 10 to 20 percent of a typical hospital's mobile assets are lost or stolen during their useful life - an average cost of nearly US$3,000 per item[1].

Many means to an end

It is imperative for healthcare institutions to keep track of their mobile assets be it mission-critical equipment or patient care devices as these are important tools in improving the delivery of healthcare services. For that to happen, healthcare institutions need to ensure that these assets are properly managed for their maximum optimisation. Asset tracking solutions can help healthcare institutions to efficiently locate and optimise the use of their mobile assets.

A real-time location system, complemented with wireless LAN infrastructure, offers healthcare staff an asset tracking solution for locating equipment via applications on mobile devices, even when equipment is located behind locked doors. Such a system can provide healthcare staff with real-time information about the location of an asset, while at the same time, allowing them to operate more competently.

There are several other ways to also track healthcare assets - barcodes and RFID being two of them. Barcodes are ubiquitous and have long been used for patient identification, medication administration, specimen collection, and to track objects.

RFID is a very adaptable method to track and manage mobile assets and patients. This would typically consist of a mix of handheld, mobile, or fixed position readers, depending on the organisation's needs. In addition, RFID tags are now readily available for virtually any type of item or for people, for example, tags designed specifically for metal or plastic, small, flexible wrist tags for patients. These are also much more affordable, making it easy for healthcare organisations to implement and incrementally expand their RFID systems.


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