Anyone working in clinical healthcare knows that tracking and finding needed equipment can be a lesson in frustration. In fact, hospital staff report spending 20 percent of their time searching for what they need, and it’s not unusual for staff to start hiding - and even hoarding - everything from wheelchairs to IV pumps.
That’s why more healthcare facilities are turning to real time location system (RTLS) technology, to provide them with location-based intelligence (LBI). LBI is used across healthcare facilities, not only to track staff and patient mobility, but to enable this same location accuracy for mobile medical equipment needed for patient care.
Ultimately, the benefits of this technology are felt at the bedside, where clinical staff can spend more time and deliver care without delays caused by the need to track down equipment and devices. Less visible, but equally valuable, is that administrative and operational leaders are provided with insights into not only the location of hundreds or even thousands of items, but also crucial utilization, availability, and maintenance data for each asset. This takes the guesswork out of managing equipment, enhances safety and regulatory compliance, and enables better informed decisions regarding inventory and purchasing decisions.
In our current healthcare environment with all of the unknown variables associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, this type of technology provides a new tool in the arsenal of crisis preparedness. One of the clients I work with shared the results of a physical inventory exercise they performed at the beginning of the pandemic to prepare for the expected surge in patients. The clinical engineers inventoried all critical mobile medical equipment including IV pumps, ventilators, and tube feeding pumps. This client reported that they were able to locate all of their RTLS tagged items, in comparison to locating only 60 percent of their non-tagged equipment.
Keeping the entire facility on track
When an LBI system is fully integrated with the computerized maintenance management system (CMM), or enterprise asset management (EAM) solution the benefits are extended even further to include equipment work orders used to systematize and standardize maintenance and provide alerts when an item is out of its assigned area or leaves through and exit. All staff have the same up-to-date equipment information, while data easily flows between systems to maximize both asset and supply chain management.
I remember, in my time as an ICU nurse, seeing the clinical engineers come through to perform maintenance work or equipment recalls armed with a list or spreadsheet as their only reference tool to manually count and search by item number in an effort to locate each mobile medical device to service. These engineers would travel floor to floor repeating this same manual process. Managing maintenance and recall operations in this way takes days if not weeks often falling short of locating all assets. And it’s the same today for facilities that don’t have RTLS enabled management of their entire inventory, as we saw in the previous example.
Another client I work with recently reported a scenario where they had 60 PMs to perform in a single month. This team was able to locate, on demand, all tagged assets and complete 100 percent of the work orders in the necessary time frame. This time savings and accuracy are a result of the visibility they never had before implementing a location based intelligence system.
These examples illustrate how LBI technology reveals a comprehensive view of a facility’s entire equipment ecosystem. Data analytics are available and applied by unit, department, facility, and even system-wide, for smart decision making in the face of fluctuating patient numbers and acuity.
LBI is key to safety and ensures recalled or malfunctioning equipment is proactively pulled off the hospital floor before presenting risks to staff and patients. The system also works in critical, non-patient-facing areas such as sterile process and central supply areas. There, staff can see, at a glance, how much soiled equipment is on each unit, and are able to retrieve that equipment without spending hours searching a multi-floor facility.
LBI feeds the PAR dashboard to show that same staff where to return the cleaned equipment, and in what numbers. This ensures those same units are always fully equipped to meet staff and patient needs. That same proactive PAR level management means equipment is replaced before it is requested, which helps build trust between staff, and eliminates familiar, but inefficient, practices such as hiding and hoarding equipment.
By collecting real-time utilization data, including trends, peak usage, and visibility into idle equipment, procurement staff can make more strategic purchasing decisions. In cases of disruptions such as pandemic or other disaster, equipment is not only easily located, but strategically and efficiently redistributed where it is needed most.
No one likes to wait- especially patients. LBI provides visualization to mobile medical equipment that staff have never had in the past. It ensures complete, seamless control over those hard assets that work with the soft, caregiving skills that support patient satisfaction and outcomes. In the meantime, LBI helps organizations save vital resources, create a more engaged staff, and provide peace of mind to everyone across the care process, especially patients and their families.
Shelly Schulz, BSN, RN, is a Clinical Solution Advisor for Infor.