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When this new workflow plan and technology were imple- mented, it was discovered that although there were 500 IV pumps in circulation, we really only needed around 340 to meet the needs of our patients effectively and efficiently.

You can change your technology – but unless you change your process and procedures, the organizational investment won’t automatically result in improvements.

How is this possible? The new process implemented as a result of mini-LEAN/Six Sigma helped to improve the overall distribution of IV pumps. In addition, the AgileTrac tool is used to maintain the effectiveness of the new processes. Instead of a pump being left somewhere obscure, where no one could find it, or left where it wasn’t needed, the IV pump was now easily located and put back into circulation. With this newfound insight into how many pumps were actually needed to treat patients and accommodate care- giver needs – 340 units – Ellis was able to avoid significant unnecessary expenditure right off the bat when buying the new IV pumps.

Lessons learned

One crucial takeaway from Ellis’ work tracking assets and implementing AgileTrac is that purchasing infrastructure isn’t enough – you can’t just buy technology and expect results to follow. Staff needs to adopt usage of the technology. The organization-wide culture has to support and nurture use. Everyone involved in the use of tracking technology – from the nurses searching for equipment to the biomedical staff maintaining the individual units – needs to be onboard. While there was some initial resistance from staff, who were already learning and using a number of other new systems and technologies, such as EMR, adoption and usage were very good once they saw how well the new procedure worked and how easily they could track down equipment with AgileTrac. Another lesson learned was the necessity for ongoing education of staff to make sure the AgileTrac tool and the new IV pump process were working consistently. We were especially mindful to educate new nursing staff when they came on board.

The takeaway from this experience is that you can change your technology – but unless you change your process and procedures, the organizational investment won’t automati- cally result in improvements. Humans power technology, so be sure that staff knows how to use it and feels comfortable doing so.

A challenge at any size

Asset tracking and inventory management are not chal- lenges unique to Ellis; industry-wide, every hospital and

health system of any size struggles with these same issues. Where mobile equipment is located, determining the ap- propriate number of units to buy and maintain, and getting each piece of equipment to the right patient at the right time are complicated, costly issues. Due to inefficiencies in work- flow and not knowing how many physical pieces of equipment there are on campus, organizations can end up paying for unnecessary pieces of owned or rented equipment. While it may seem elementary to determine how much technology is in a hospital at any given time, assets could easily number several thousand, depending on the size of the facility and the number of patients and staff manipulating mobile medi- cal equipment.

Ellis continues its journey of asset management Since the IV pump project, we’ve tagged a number of other pieces of mobile medical equipment, including telemetry units, which were sometimes lost when tangled up in soiled linens, or when patients accidentally wore them home. We’re now beginning to tag rental units, such as specialty beds and wound vacs, which are very costly pieces of mobile equip- ment. Already, we’ve been able to prevent losing this equipment, thus avoiding the cost of having to pay rental companies for lost units. We’re also tagging

wheelchairs and stretchers to better enable our transport depart- ment to quickly find necessary pieces of equipment. The biomedi- cal department is more efficient with preventive maintenance, as staff doesn’t have to search as long for equipment needing to be ser- viced. Also, there have been fewer pieces of missing equipment reported as being unable to be serviced. Asset management is certainly a huge undertaking for an organization, but this is an industry challenge that will not go away. As we found with our $700,000 in savings, managing the effi- cient usage of mobile medical equipment offers long-term value and supports our ongoing efforts to take the best possible care of our patients.

HMT HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY November 2012 11 November 2012

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