Healthcare Asset Optimisation
It’s not news to anyone that COVID-19 has exacerbated an already threadbare National Health Service. News reports, documentaries, call-in radio debates, and newspaper columns have been rammed full of warnings, threats and cries for help from our NHS since March 2020 (and beyond). At a time when the UK population rarely agrees about much in terms of governmental policy and societal reaction, we can all concur that our NHS and wider healthcare sector is constantly bobbing between crises and chaos.
A recent British Medical Journal report states that the key challenges for the NHS require two courses of action – firstly we need to deal with the backlog of both physical and mental healthcare, and simultaneously create a new system that tackles the health inequalities that the pandemic has caused. To succeed – or to even have a chance of winning our collective battle, all hospitals and trusts need to have their massively stretched healthcare workers precisely where they can deliver greatest impact – on the frontline doing the critical jobs they’re trained to do, and not wasting time on menial tasks.
As the pandemic evolves and we step into 2022, the ability to locate patients, hospital staff and the critical assets and equipment used to treat patients is crucial to the operational functionality our NHS. For the public and those outside of healthcare, this is considered a ‘given’ – but the fact is that the loss, misplacement and misuse of healthcare assets is one of the biggest challenges faced day and daily within ‘the system’.
Hospitals are notoriously and relentlessly busy places with clinical staff, patients and the general public in constant flow. There is also the infinite traffic comprised of beds, machines, wheelchairs, and clinical equipment that constantly traverses between patient rooms, departments, wards, wings, private homes and even trust regions.
Some of these movements are planned and recorded – but most simply are not. As such, locating these items and critical assets when required (often urgently) can be a frustrating and inefficient process at best – or a dangerous one at worst.
To contextualise the problem, a medium-sized hospital with circa 500 beds typically has over 10,000 mobile assets and pieces of equipment. Ideally, each asset would either be in use, being cleaned, or undergoing maintenance. In reality, however, kit and equipment are continuously misplaced, receiving unplanned maintenance, or are simply being hoarded by individuals and departments understandably concerned about specific equipment not being available when needed. AMR Research also estimates that 10%-20% of a typical hospital’s mobile assets are lost or stolen during their useful life. Across the NHS we have no idea what this amounts to in terms of wasted financial and staff resources, and we’d simply dread to think!
Moreover, GE Healthcare claims that although more than 50% of hospital equipment is generally idle, it still accrues significant expense. This, compounded with the fact that clinical staff waste huge amounts of time hunting for equipment – usually when they need it most – highlights the problem. Buying more equipment doesn’t solve anything – it simply adds to the excess costs of purchasing, storing, and servicing.
Healthcare providers need to make existing equipment work harder
Equipment Management and Clinical Engineering teams are responsible for assets inside and outside of hospitals. Their asset management plans and records aim to keep track of equipment, identify pieces that need servicing and monitor where they should be. In a high-risk industry like healthcare, compliance with safety laws and regulations is crucial to patient safety, but also incredibly difficult to manage.
Today, locating equipment and optimising its utilisation have never been easier, and technology is empowering hospitals and trusts to better manage inventory and maximise resources. We can now manage locations, audit equipment, and ensure timely maintenance programmes, all from one platform and without relying on clinical staff.
At Kinsetsu, we use unobtrusive RFID tags that signal the location of selected assets, devices and equipment to readers that are strategically placed throughout the hospital. Clinical staff can easily identify where assets are, be notified as they move into another hospital ward or wing, or even if an asset is in storage, or moved to another trust region. With Kinsetsu’s own technology, hospital staff can see when and where equipment gets used – all at any time and in real-time.
RFID readers installed at strategic, high traffic locations detect and timestamp the movement of tagged critical assets, allowing them to be traced based on their last known location. Our scanners can also capture all the data contained in each barcode with a single scan, and appropriately analyse and dissect the data for the respective hospital platforms. The scanning of barcodes can also alert healthcare workers when on-hand medical devices are approaching their use-by dates, thereby reducing the number of expired items left on the shelves.
This unprecedented data ensures equipment can be appropriately used, maintained, serviced, and procured, boosting staff productivity and maximising patient care. We are so proud to be delivering a flexible and scalable solution that is resolving one of the greatest organisational pain points in the healthcare sector today – and which directly addresses the two courses of action laid out by the BMJ – helping people get seen and treated more quickly, across all demographics and trust regions.