Healthcare providers are being squeezed from two directions, dealing with the ever-present demand to reduce costs while improving quality of care and outcomes for their patients. The cost-efficiency demanded simply cannot come from reductions in quality, so savings must be derived from a more efficient use of resources and operational reforms that result in a better level of care.
There are many hurdles to these goals, but the particular inefficiencies that crop up in managing a healthcare facility’s vast equipment resources bring special challenges to anyone trying to tackle costs.
Proliferation and Distribution of Healthcare Assets
The number of assets in play in healthcare environments has increased dramatically over the past two decades, and just mobile assets can represent millions in capital expenditures for a single facility. More treatment options and technologies mean better care and improved outcomes for patients but also more cost introduced into the system.
All that equipment requires tracking, maintenance, user training and compliance documentation. And many hospitals see a diffusion of responsibility for asset tracking, cleaning and distribution, in which everyone is equally responsible and therefore nobody is really accountable. Without clearly delineated procedures for tracking equipment, replenishing supplies and cleaning fixtures or equipment, all of these critical tasks are likely to be done inconsistently, impacting everything from patient outcomes to compliance efforts.
Mobile Assets can be Difficult to Track
Mobile assets are a particular challenge because it’s hard to keep them where they’re needed. Caregivers can begin to “hoard” equipment if it’s not readily available when they need it, leading to more purchase requests and an excess of equipment that sits dormant much of the time. That dormancy leads to low utilization rates which devalue the lifetime value of an asset.
This uneven distribution and unavailability of equipment despite high inventory levels leads to lost productivity and care delays. If a caregiver has to go searching or make several calls to find a piece of equipment, productivity goes down and a patient may have to wait for a procedure or even routine care. Inefficiencies like these lead to longer average stays for patients, breakdowns in sanitation procedures, and lost time.
Solutions for Managing Critical Equipment
RFID and barcode scanning can help track equipment more effectively. When every asset can be located through a facility’s existing Wi-Fi network, caregivers can locate what they need instantly instead of wasting time calling different departments or physically searching for what they need.
Monitoring location is not the only element to a robust tracking system. Associating equipment in use with actual patients can help ensure that assets are being distributed in a client-centric fashion, moving them toward fuller utilization.
Tracking patient needs and matching them up with materials, equipment and personnel can also ensure that all inventory and staffing levels respond to actual service levels required by the people being served. A patient-centric view is a much better way to view resource distribution, and helps better to justify capital expenditures that will actually impact care and health outcomes.
Comprehensive Tracking Infrastructure
All of these goals depend on the actual systems you have in place to track assets, associate them with day-to-day operations of the facility and make that information accessible to the people using them. When you can track a piece of equipment from its acquisition, through every servicing and through to the end of its useful life cycle, you’ll have the data you need to make sweeping decisions regarding similar assets throughout your organization.
Of course, technology must be coupled with smart policies on equipment use, distribution, cleaning and management in order to be effective. Specific stakeholders need to be identified and accountability enforced throughout the organization to ensure that procedures actually translate into concrete action at every level. Wedding policy to real operations on the ground is where the real cost savings and care-quality improvements happen.