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This is the first in a two-part series that talks about the challenges and critical importance of asset management in healthcare.

Hospitals and care systems are fully aware of how not knowing the whereabouts of hospital assets and equipment can mean the difference between great patient and caregiver experiences and high levels of dissatisfaction–for both parties. Lack of insight into the location of assets also can also cause delays with delivering critically needed care. If health systems don’t have equipment location insight, it creates a ripple effect that can be felt in a variety of areas across the entire campus. Most recently, these ripple effects have been made worse by staffing shortages that have forced health systems to find ways to “do more with less”.

Ripple 1: It begins with nursing staff

Let’s start with nursing staff who depend on having the necessary tools and equipment that allow them to effectively care for patients. If IV pumps, patient monitors, stretchers, and other medical equipment they need can’t be located, they and their patients can become frustrated with delays that may interfere with critically needed care.
Unfortunately, most hospitals and healthcare organizations don’t have a good system for tracking critical items, and if needed equipment is not available for patients, quality of care and patient experience suffer.

Ripple 2: Equipment is often hoarded in response to workflow frustrations

When staff spend time searching for equipment, they may become frustrated and start hoarding assets. Nurses might stash items in locked offices, for example, so they have ready access when equipment is needed for patient care.

Equipment hoarding like this creates three potential issues.

  1. Items aren’t available for others to use and may sit dormant, with some estimates indicating that up to 25% of equipment like IV pumps are unused or under-utilized.
  2. Rented items aren’t returned on time, leading to cost inefficiencies.
  3. Duplicate items are purchased, which leads to overstocking and underutilization.

Ripple 3: Equipment doesn’t get inspected or replaced

With hoarded equipment, proper inspections and replacement may be missed or completely overlooked. For example, transport teams examine wheelchairs every time they use them for patient transport to ensure equipment is in good working order, with no pulls or rips, and wheels and brakes function.

Conversely, non-transport staff may not have this inspection-first training, and a caregiver grabbing a wheelchair that has been stashed away for an unsteady patient may not take the time for an inspection, thereby creating a potential patient safety problem–and would not meet Joint Commission standards. Not to mention, bacteria collected in a small rip could cause a patient infection.
Even when new chairs are ordered, the transport team has two challenges: First, they must store the new wheelchairs, and second, they need to inventory and replace the ones that are unrepairable. But first they have to find them.

According to a hospital transport manager, “Once our wheelchairs have the trackers on them, I know which ones I’ve checked and where the missing ones are located.”

Ripple 4: Medical equipment is the star of the great disappearing act

Some critical and expensive portable hospital equipment can be easily taken off premises, such as patient monitors, workstations on wheels, poles, and pumps. Without a tracking system, it’s impossible to know what has happened to missing assets.

With real-time tracking, security and operations teams know when important items exit their facility, and key team members can receive a real-time notification if tracked equipment is being moved off campus.

Ripple 5: More searching means less time for patient care

Every moment a nurse, doctor, transporter, or other staff member spends locating missing or lost equipment, there is an associated opportunity cost of less time spent on patient care.

With real-time equipment tracking, teams can locate what they need and find items that are closest to them on a 3D digital twin of their campus.

Why where matters

Hospital teams depend on equipment availability to manage patient care, and not knowing where items are located may lead to asset losses, wasted time for patients and staff, hoarded equipment that isn’t available for others to use, missed equipment inspection and replacement, and less time spent on patient care. But there are solutions to these challenges, and next time I’ll focus on how location-based asset tracking can improve management and insight into asset location information–and eliminate the ripple effect of not knowing the location of hospital equipment.