Asset management isn’t as straightforward as the term may seem to imply. It’s a common misconception – even amongst professionals in the industry – that the use of asset management technology in healthcare is restricted to simply locating and monitoring a facility’s equipment.
But, the true value of the asset management lies in its ability to capture data on the interrelationships between hospital staff, patients, equipment, and physical space. In order for asset management to effectively capture and reveal these insights, analytics are essential. These analytics solutions need to be capable of collecting and processing data from the real-time location system (RTLS) and the IoT devices on all assets being tracked, and delivering it in a way that supports better decision-making and improved processes.
Driving hospital efficiency – and changing culture
Manual processes for tracking the location and status of a hospital’s equipment are inefficient, labor intensive, and often error prone. In fact, one study conducted by GE Healthcare found that nurses spend an average of 20 minutes or more per shift just searching for equipment.1 If staff members find it too time consuming to locate certain portable equipment, they may stockpile it in unconventional locations for their own use – a practice commonly referred to as hoarding. But, this behavior makes it difficult for other staff to locate the equipment when needed, further compounding the issue of availability.
Resolving this issue is the first and most common role of asset management technologies in the hospital setting. By tagging equipment with RTLS sensors, facilities can easily keep track of their assets in real time and automate equipment searches based on proximity and availability. This helps to dramatically improve asset utilization rates, ensuring that staff make full use of the supplies available to them. Moreover, it saves valuable time from having to hunt the equipment down manually, and promotes a culture of collaboration on equipment use, instead of one of hoarding.
Delivering quality care
Hospitals are busy places. Both staff and equipment are constantly on the move. That high rate of movement makes it challenging to keep accurate manual records of equipment use, sterilization, and maintenance schedules. And even a single missed cleaning cycle can have serious consequences from an infection-control perspective.
RTLS data combined with status information from the systems used to manage the asset addresses this issue. When analyzed together, organizations are able to eliminate the need for staff to monitor and report manually, and can even send automated cleaning or service alerts to the appropriate teams that includes location information.
Connected devices within an asset management program share a constant stream of data with the hospital’s IT system, updating their status in real time when an asset is soiled, undergoing sterilization, and when it is available for use. Moreover, these devices can provide a location history that identifies any equipment associated with an infectious patient, ensuring that those assets are thoroughly sterilized before their next use.
Beyond regular cleaning, virtually every type of non-consumable hospital asset also requires preventive (and sometimes recall) maintenance. Regular maintenance schedules typically occur in large, overlapping cycles and require significant time and effort from engineering personnel. Overwhelmed recall monitoring programs were also cited among the ECRI Institute’s Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2015.2 In order to reduce patient risk factors and lower costs associated with both recalls and preventive maintenance, maintenance teams can utilize asset management software to track equipment properties.
Improving patient experiences
As accountable care organization networks expand, and the portion of CMS payments tied to patient experience increases, healthcare facilities are increasingly being evaluated based on patient feedback and satisfaction scores. One of the primary drivers behind these scores is wait time. Many hospitals are making a renewed effort to reduce wait times by improving the flow of patients within key areas, such as the OR and out-patient clinics.
This application involves not just keeping track of patients and caregivers, but also rooms and equipment. By tagging equipment and rooms with IoT-enabled sensors, hospitals can receive real-time information on the availability and status of both portable assets and patient spaces. This is a critical component of building a smooth patient flow to reduce wait times, by increasing utilization rates and ensuring that rooms are turned over quickly. Real-time status information also makes it easier to keep patients and family members informed, and gives the hospital new options for serving patients.
Intelligent asset management solutions are also capable of analyzing usage trends to help identify process bottlenecks, and can even apply predictive analytics to anticipate future asset needs. That means not only ensuring that extra equipment and rooms are available during predicted peak times, but also determining which rooms are best suited to patients’ needs based on location, available assets, and potentially even staff assignments.
The applications for asset management solutions in the healthcare field now extend far beyond their traditional role of locating. These tools are now viewed by many hospitals as an integral part of a facility’s operations and patient care. By capturing and analyzing data across the full spectrum of the facility’s staff, patients, equipment, and physical space, real-time asset management technologies enable hospitals to understand their daily operations in an entirely new way. With highly granular information at hand, hospitals can implement new practices to ensure greater efficiency, higher quality of care, and a superior experience for each patient.