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The ANT Telecom Blog

Asset tracking in the NHS

Written by ANT Telecom | 20 Dec 2013

NHS Trusts are under continual pressure to make cost savings and meet targets. And with the health service haemorrhaging more than a £1 billion each year due to lost medical equipment the time to act is now.  Simple, real-time location technologies cannot just help NHS hospitals deliver efficiencies, but they can also, quite literally, identify where to find them.

This simple, cost-effective solution is not only within reach, it is already established in some of the UK’s most proactive trusts. These hospitals are using real-time location systems (RTLS) to help transform service delivery, identify areas of inefficiency and accelerate care pathways for the benefit of patients.

Crucially, the systems, which deploy unique ‘tags’ to track and locate items, can be seamlessly integrated into an NHS organisation’s existing wireless network. RTLS can then provide hospitals with greater visibility and control of their assets, improving stock control and, in the process, protecting budget that may previously have been wasted on buying unnecessary replacements.

This effective management of hospital equipment can therefore help speed up the delivery of care and accelerate patient flow through the system.

RTLS technology can also be used to improve the patient experience, particularly in busy out-patient areas. In some trusts, outpatients are being given ‘active tag’ badges that enable them to leave the waiting room and await their appointment in a more comfortable setting, which in turn improves productivity.

Patient wrist tags are also being used to help protect vulnerable patients. For example, some trusts are using the technology to safeguard against mental health patients leaving secured environments without the knowledge of clinical staff or carers.

There is little doubt that real-time location systems can help prevent the inefficient use of hospital resources, and at the same time drive real improvements in patient care. In a multi-disciplinary environment where ‘assets’ pass through numerous departments across busy hospitals, a culture of collaboration is required for all stakeholders to understand the benefits of RTLS and, more importantly, the implications of failing to act.

The appropriate implementation of RTLS will often rely upon an experienced system integrator facilitating holistic dialogue between all parties – including nurses, clinicians, engineering and maintenance staff – to establish individual needs and develop a business case for a solution that delivers benefits for all.

Increasingly, proactive trusts are running small-scale pilots of real-time location systems and are rapidly discovering – and, crucially, addressing – inefficiencies within their operations. Since RTLS technology works over the existing medical-grade WI-FI networks present in all NHS hospitals, it does not require additional infrastructure and pilots can therefore be implemented quickly and cost-effectively. The barriers to progress are therefore minimal – but the time to act is now.

For more information and an example of where RTLS is currently in operation please read the case study regarding our work with Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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