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Tracking Systems

Optimize your mobile assets

A hospital redesigns its distribution and management processes using a real-time location system. By Fran Dirksmeier

aste in healthcare is defi ned by The New England Healthcare Institute as “health- care spending that can be eliminated without reducing the quality of care.” U.S. healthcare waste totals around $700 billion annu- ally, according to a 2009 Thomson Reuters report. Given the current climate in healthcare, where hospitals are feeling pressure to reduce waste by improving processes and doing more with less, healthcare systems are fi nding it necessary to look at ways to optimize what they cur- rently have while still providing the best care possible and protecting patient safety. In fact, a recent ACHE study reported that 80 percent of CEOs in healthcare settings recognize this and include the reduction of operating costs as a priority on their agenda.


Mobile clinical assets are an indispensable part of healthcare delivery. Whether it’s an IV pump, a bedside telemetry unit or a wheelchair for transport at discharge, virtually every patient depends on one or more mobile assets during a hospital stay. However, despite its key role in patient care, the effective management and distribution of mobile equipment remains an ongoing challenge for many hospitals striving for effi ciency. As a result, hospitals nationwide are overspending billions each year – usually unknowingly – on mobile assets that are not used effectively.

Fran Dirksmeier is managing principal, GE Healthcare’s Performance Solutions, and general manager of the AgileTrac technology platform. For more information on AgileTrac solutions:

According to industry research performed by GE Healthcare, hospitals aver- age two IV pumps per bed, and the utilization rate of this equipment is only 42 percent. The remaining 58 percent of the pumps (which can cost up to $15,000 for

specialized infusion systems) can be found in a variety of settings outside patient care including idle, in storage, in transportation or being serviced. Despite this signifi cant percentage of pumps not in direct use, the same studies report that hospital staff

20 January 2011

were able to fi nd pumps when needed only 36 percent of the time, resulting in nurses spending 10, 20 or even 30 minutes per shift searching for clean, working IV pumps. Additionally, healthcare facilities reported that 10 percent of this equipment is not only unavailable but seems to simply disappear – lost in the system due to underutilization and inadequate tracking.

Now, six years after installing AgileTrac to manage assets and almost two years of tracking patients in operating rooms, Bon Secours Richmond is realizing a savings of approximately $2 million each year.

In an effort to ensure that staff has the necessary equipment to provide care to patients and minimize the amount of time spent searching for it, a common but costly solution for hospitals is to overstock these items, hoping this will increase the chances of equipment be- ing on hand when needed. Although it’s a quick fi x, this strategy not only lowers the overall utilization rate of existing equipment but also increases a hospital’s capital and operating expenditures. The real solution lies in the following: assess the current inventory and utilization; redesign workfl ow processes based on that assessment; educate staff to understand new processes; and integrate appropriate technology to monitor, sustain and improve asset distribution and usage.

In 2004, staff at Bon Secours Richmond Healthcare System recognized the need for optimization and decided to implement new technology to better utilize the use of mobile equipment in their hospitals. Decision makers elected to adopt a real-time location system (RTLS) to better manage the assets of the system’s four hospitals: St. Mary’s, St. Francis, Memorial and Richmond Com- munity. To make the best use of its RTLS, Bon Secours


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