Asset tracking is not a new concept in health care. Hospital systems have implemented variations of real-time location systems (RTLS) for mobile medical equipment using a variety of technologies including Wi-Fi, BLE, UWB, RFID, UHF. Partnering asset tracking technology with asset intelligence software provides actionable information to improve both clinical and financial outcomes.
This post focuses on key areas where the return on investment is proven.
Utilization and Equipment Spend
Asset utilization is the amount of time a particular medical equipment asset is in use delivering patient care and generating revenue.
Without the benefit of automated location tracking, measuring the actual utilization of equipment is extremely difficult. However, when assets are monitored as they move through the hospital system, staff have visibility into patterns that may indicate inefficient processes or opportunities to right-size equipment purchases.
Analyzing the amount of time assets spend in areas like sterilization rooms, dirty storage, clean storage, hallways and patient rooms allows management to make fact-based decisions on how well assets are being utilized. For example, if a large quantity of assets is detected in dirty storage for extended periods of time, a process improvement initiative may be indicated around the workflow to collect, clean and redistribute assets. If clinical staff is indicating they need more of a particular type of equipment, using this data may facilitate the opportunity to reallocate existing assets into areas where they are productive more often vs. buying more.
The second value add is saving nurse and technician footsteps, reducing the time they spend looking for equipment throughout the day.
Although this is a bit more difficult to quantifiably measure, it has specific impact on staff productivity, patient safety and job satisfaction. Offering an app for nurses to immediately locate what they need improves asset utilization and again, can reduce excess inventory purchases that may be initiated simply because staff cannot readily find otherwise available equipment. Providing technicians an app to find assets for recalls improves response times and ensures all affected assets are accounted for, with obvious benefits to patient safety.
There are other quantifiable benefits associated with true asset intelligence in hospitals like prevention of hoarding, tracking equipment belonging to different departments and preventing shrinkage (lost, misplaced, stolen) that can contribute significantly to the return on investment.
When reviewing shrinkage, it’s important to note that although these losses can be deliberate (high value items being stolen), it also can occur inadvertently. Equipment can simply be misplaced, moved to the wrong department, or patients are unintentionally discharged to alternate care facilities with your hospital-owned equipment. By providing exit alerting and missing asset reports, staff has a proactive tool to reduce shrinkage significantly whether deliberate or unintentional.
Asset Intelligence in the Real-Time Hospital
With the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence and a capability to store and process more data, there are myriad new ways hospitals use the data that is collected from its assets that take move beyond asset tracking to true asset intelligence. Here are several examples:
- Automated par level recommendations
- Machine analysis of process flow to provide recommendations
- Usage of smart assets like pumps to provide intelligence that can be over laid on the location information
Let’s explore each in more detail.
Automated Par Level Recommendations
It’s possible to estimate the census in ED and OR using AI and ML by looking at past trends and quantifying various factors that contribute to the load on the hospital.
These data can then be used to predict the level and types of equipment needed. Take, for example, wheelchairs, gurneys, IV pumps or any other mobile equipment.
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