HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sensors embedded in medical equipment enable track and trace technologies
  • Hospitals use RFID and BLE tags to locate devices quickly
  • Asset tracking boosts hospital inventory management and improves operational efficiency
  • Data analytics optimizes resource availability and utilization for patient care
INTRODUCTION

Asset tracking is a must for efficient hospital operations

Things can get lost or remain out of reach when needed most across the 6,129 hospitals in the US. When attending to seriously ill patients in the 9,19,649 beds, any of the 5.2 million registered nurses may fail to find a blood bag, an IV pump, a heart monitor, or a wheelchair. The consequences can be very serious -delayed treatment can even lead to death.

Nurses spend more than one hour a day searching for medical equipment or to locate a person -this is precious time that they should be devoting to patient-care.Also, if a healthcare aide or device is not found on time, the resource is not utilized. Medical assets -including life-saving equipment, vitals measuring devices, and medication infusion apparatus, need to be easily located, whether it is for regular use, emergencies, or maintenance.

Thanks to the advent of sensors, it is possible to track and trace the physical assets of a hospital.

What is asset tracking?

Asset tracking is a systematic process that enables close monitoring and efficient management of physical assets in a hospital. It enables the healthcare provider to locate an asset, track its movement, and assess its status at any time.

With data capture and analytics worked in, it is also possible to analyze the performance of each asset over time, utilization or non-utilization, the RoI for the device, the wait time involved in accessing an asset, the time spent searching for it, when it was last cleaned, serviced or repaired and so on.

There are hundreds of hospital assets - medical equipment, machinery, medication, clinical and surgical kits, not to mention people - clinical and paramedical staff, newborn babies, and elderly patients, especially in a large healthcare center spread across millions of square feet.

A typical list of tangible assets that are used for patient care may include - ventilators, automated external defibrillators, CAT scanners, personal protective equipment, syringe drivers,surgical kits, durable medical equipment such as oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, special commodes, beds, biometric monitors, and compressors.

Hospitals reportedly lose millions due to theft and misplacement of medical equipment.

  • There is deliberate pilferage of costly supplies, expensive equipment, and life-saving devices -sometimes discovered on sites like eBay for resale.
  • Patients exit on hospital wheelchairs and crutches.
  • Equipment is misplaced when staff repeatedly move equipment from one place to another or deliberated hoard it for future use.
  • Smaller devices are bundled away in soiled bed linen unwittingly or trashed.
  • Unused tools and supplies from the operating room are disposed of as medical waste carelessly.

New age track and trace technologies solve this problem through real-time location system (RTLS) asset tracking, which in turn makes way for efficient inventory (a list of resources available) management.

TECHNOLOGIES

Asset tracking in healthcare gets a fillip through real-time location systems (RTLS)

Earlier hospitals kept track of assets and maintained an inventory through an Excel sheet, manually entering details -often failing to update (damage, loss, dysfunctional, misplaced and retired resources) the list-and thus did not provide a clear picture of assets.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there was a huge shortage of resources – and the FDA even published a list of devices in short supply to let Americans who depended on medical devices know the situation. The need for real-time location systems (RTLS) was sorely felt, and asset tracking has since gained popularity in the US healthcare sector. Several technologies enable asset tracking and are listed below.

  • Barcode tags: Involve hand-held scanners, and the equipment should be in the line of the reader, so the process is not completely automated and is not of much help if the equipment is somewhere out of sight.
    Example: A hospital pharmacist scans the barcode on a medication bin while dispensing medicines to maintain an accurate record and prevent errors.
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID): A combination of active (with battery) and passive (without battery) RFID tags helps a hospital use RFID readers that receive signals or detect signals and locate medical devices by proximity, ID, location, or at specific checkpoints, whether or not they are in the line of sight.
    Example: A wheelchair with an RFID tag is scanned by a reader as it is wheeled into the cardiac unit -facilitating tracking of real-time movement, usage, and location.

    BLE facilitates real time location system, and can be a two-way communication
  • Bluetooth low energy (BLE): Low-power Bluetooth transmitters can be fixed onto assets and traced by any wireless device. Combined with BLE radio frequency-based wireless communication, these transmitters -beacons (stationary)and tags (mobile) are low-cost, low power consuming (long-lasting battery), and high on accuracy and speed in asset tracking while also providing data identity and environment parameters monitoring.
    Example: The procurement department is doing an audit of beds in the hospital. The beacons attached to the beds in the pediatric unit send signals to a BLE Gateway, which sends the data over to the cloud or client-server. The communication can be two-way, meaning the hospital not only collects data on beds but can also send an order to the asset – if a bed is found damaged, a message can be sent to retire it. This is a form of real-time location system (RTLS).
  • Internet of medical things: IoT or IoMT technology integrated with WLAN solutions is also being used to keep track of connected medical devices that have IoT sensors embedded in them.
    Example: A medical refrigerator storing vaccines can have sensors that detect changes in temperature levels and send alerts if there is a deviation from the acceptable range. This ensures the integrity of the stored medical supplies.
  • Wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi): Wi-Fi technology can be used through the use of wearables. Clinicians, contractors working on the site, high-risk patients, and hospital staff wearing Wi-Fi bands or bracelets can be traced through the WI-FI access points throughout the hospital. Wi-Fi signals can also be captured from their tablets, laptops, and phones, and an RTLS can be used centrally to track and analyze data collected from equipment and people.
    Other technologies, including QR codes, global positioning systems, ultra-wideband, and near-field communication, are also used for various needs. In healthcare, however, RFID and BLE are gaining traction for asset tracking with RTLS.
BENEFITS

Asset tracking in large hospitals improves inventory management

The business, patient welfare, and clinical benefits that accrue from deploying track and trace technologies to track assets are many.

Hospital operations

Asset tracking improves workflow efficiency, as assets are located quickly. It helps to contain costs, as tech-enabled asset management optimizes resource utilization and maintenance of equipment. Timely servicing reduces breakdowns and downtimes, reduces repairs, and prevents malfunctions. Tracking costly medical equipment also prevents loss and theft, reducing the cost of replacement, which hits a hospital's finances. Hospital security is enhanced when there is real-time visibility of the assets. Hospital operations are smooth when asset tracking is coupled with inventory management.

What is inventory management?

In a healthcare setting, inventory management would mean overseeing the stock of consumables (surgical gloves, syringes, cotton swabs, bandages, etc.) and hospital supplies (ECG machines, sterilizers, bodyweight scales, procedure tables, etc.) with the objective of maintaining optimal levels of stock to meet needs. Inventory management helps to prevent shortages, reduce excess stock, and ensure timely access to necessary supplies. Thus, it promotes optimal resource utilization.

Patient-care

Quick access to critical medical equipment enhances the efficiency of clinical procedures and enables healthcare professionals to provide timely care to patients. Patient safety is ensured as track and trace technologies also help in the maintenance of the equipment -preventing the use of devices that may malfunction. Patient experience and satisfaction are enhanced when diagnostic and treatment procedures are carried out smoothly.

Clinical accuracy

Locating medical equipment on time allows doctors and nurses to focus on patient care. Timely access to diagnostic and therapeutic tools helps doctors arrive at the correct assessments and diagnoses and deliver holistic treatment. The easy availability of medical devices, tools,and equipment needed to treat patients effectively makes them perform their professional duties well, keeping them motivated and committed. Real-time data generated by the asset tracking systems drive decisions that are well-informed and encourage team collaboration.

Regulatory compliance

As asset tracking provides documentation of equipment usage and maintenance, hospitals can ensure they are compliant with government standards and regulatory requirements. Regular and predictive maintenance schedules, balanced equipment distribution, and optimal utilization of the assets can be achieved. The necessary calibrations and certifications needed for medical equipment can be kept updated to ensure safety.

BEST PRACTICES

Sharing insights from our rich experience

Asahi Technologies has partnered with the equipment services team across a leading 450+ bedded children’s hospital in the US. We have deployed a Hospital Asset Inventory Management System (HAIMS)  and are ready with the know-how to enhance it with QR codes, RFID and blockchain and further upgrade it to BLE technology. Managing 33,000+ pieces of equipment per month has given us considerable insights into asset tracking and inventory management best practices.

Here is a list:

  • Graduate from manual, error-prone Excel sheet processes to an automated hospital asset tracking and inventory management system.
  • Rope in a trusted technology partner to design, develop, and implement an integrated and interoperable asset tracking system.
  • Assign unique identifiers to each asset for easy identification, tracking, and monitoring.
  • Use tried and tested track and trace technologies that are cost-effective and sustainable, such as RTLS BLE systems.
  • It is wise to develop solutions compatible with more than one technology, say RFID, IoT, and BLE,to cover various contingencies.
  • Implement the highest levels of security, such as access controls and tracking logs, to prevent mishaps.
  • Setting periodic automatic renewal (PAR) levels for inventory items may be the practice, but augment it with predictive data analytics from the asset tracking software.
  • Set up automated re-ordering systems that trigger an alarm for replenishment when the inventory level reaches a pre-defined threshold.
  • Train authorized hospital staff to place orders based on data visualization reports rather than ad-hoc seasonal requirements.
  • Categorize medical equipment and supplies based on usage patterns and criticality. Ensure close monitoring of essential items to ascertain availability.
  • Conduct regular audits to verify physical inventory against the recorded levels. Ghost assets (recorded but not present) and zombie assets (present but not documented) can drain you financially.
  • Review and update policies on asset tracking and inventory management to stay abreast of changing technologies, healthcare needs, and regulatory requirements.
WE CAN HELP

Track and trace hospital medical tools, devices, and equipment to optimize patient care

Asahi Technologies is a proven healthcare technology solutions provider. Combining our full-stack development expertise with domain knowledge, we deliver industry-specific applications that solve complex health technology challenges.

Say goodbye to laborious, manual, error-prone asset tracking and inventory management processes. Graduate to a fully automated and digitized Hospital Asset Inventory Management System (HAIMS) with Real Time Location System and Bluetooth Low Energy technologies to find what you want, when, and where you want it. Help clinicians fight burnout with our software solutions.

We are problem solvers, solution builders, and trusted partners.

Rahul

Rahul

Chief Solutions Architect

Rahul is a wellspring of wisdom when it comes to driving innovation and improving healthcare services using advanced custom software solutions. He specializes in delivering the technical guidance needed to ensure success across the digital product life cycle. His unique problem-solving approach provides the guidance and strong architectural foundation needed to transform digital health services.

Rahul

Rahul

Chief Solutions Architect

Rahul is a wellspring of wisdom when it comes to driving innovation and improving healthcare services using advanced custom software solutions. He specializes in delivering the technical guidance needed to ensure success across the digital product life cycle. His unique problem-solving approach provides the guidance and strong architectural foundation needed to transform digital health services.

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