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Tracking medical equipment in the NHS

Written by ANT Telecom | 9 Dec 2014
Keeping track of large quantities of mobile medical equipment in hospitals is both difficult and challenging. Trying to locate specific equipment for use on patients or for routine servicing is time consuming; can affect patient care and can even cause delays or cancellations to patient treatments if the necessary medical equipment cannot be found. In fact, a study by information standards organisation, GS1 UK found that nurses spend a third of their time, on average, trying to find things*

However, many hospitals don't have a system in place to locate medical equipment and it can often be the case where hospitals have too much of some equipment lying idle and not enough of other equipment to meet clinical demand to deliver high quality patient care.

Being able to track where every piece of equipment is, in real time, can save hospitals time and money ' both crucial when they continue to face pressure to make cost savings and meet targets.

If, for example, a nurse needs to quickly find an infusion pump for patient care, they may not have time or the resources to locate one if it is in use by another colleague, has been moved to a different ward or is off site. If staff could simply log onto a PC to find the equipment they need, it would same time searching or calling other wards, which ultimately takes them away from their patients and impacts the amount and level of care they are able to provide.

In addition, if a staff member requests a new piece of equipment for their ward, i.e. a bladder scanner, hospitals would benefit from having a solution in place where they have a single record of how many bladder scanners are currently in the hospital; which ones are being used; and which ones are dormant and could be moved to where they are required - ultimately removing the need to buy a new scanner.

Real-time location systems (RTLS) are available for all hospitals and can help them to not only manage stock levels but also assist them to locate equipment when it needs servicing. It's important to note that while there is a lot of medical equipment that hospitals can maintain themselves, some items require external electronic medical engineers to service them. If however, there are long delays to locate the equipment or it cannot be found, the hospital is charged for the delay or for the aborted visit.

The reality is, due to the size of hospitals, it can take hours, even days to sometimes find a single piece of equipment needed by staff or electronic medical engineers who need to maintain it. But with RTLS, even 50 pieces of equipment can be found in a couple of minutes.

A RTLS system, which deploys unique 'tags' to track and locate items, is a cost-effective solution for hospitals that can seamlessly integrate into their existing wireless network and doesn't require any further infrastructure to support it.

For more information on how RTLS can take care of your staff and assets, please click here.

*A study by GS1 UK in 2012

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