3 min reading
14 December 2021
14 December 2021
Asset Tracking for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations
Asset tracking in healthcare allows hospitals to keep track of asset usage and identify which clinicians drew up the items for a specific patient. Additionally, it helps eliminate the theft of medical equipment because it has radio frequency identification of the item’s location. With real-time location systems, healthcare organizations can reduce administrative costs and the possibility of human error while allowing employees to focus on tasks more connected to healthcare operations. Asset tracking can be used to identify where your equipment is and how it is being used.
What is Asset Tracking?
Asset tracking is a process of identifying, storing, and managing assets in an organization. It is usually done using barcodes, RFID tags, and/or software applications.
Barcodes are a series of black and white bars and spaces of varying widths that are printed on a product or package label. They are read by barcode scanners and used to identify the product or package and provide information about it, such as the product name, price, product type, and more.
RFID technology/tags are small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. The chip stores information about the item to which it is attached, and the antenna allows the chip to transmit its stored information to an RFID reader.
Software applications are computer programs that are used to track the location and status of physical assets, such as vehicles, equipment, and other inventory items. They can provide detailed reports on asset utilization, location, and movement, as well as service schedules and repair histories.
How Asset Tracking Works in Healthcare
Asset tracking is organized by assigning each asset an identifier, or serial number, and then tracking its movements and location through a database. These databases can be either physical or digital and can contain information such as the asset’s purchasing date and cost, current location, and maintenance records. Asset tracking is often organized into categories, such as office equipment, IT equipment, vehicles, inventory, and personnel. This helps to ensure that items are tracked accurately and that they are properly maintained and accounted for.
Hospitals and medical organizations can track a variety of assets, among which are the following:
- Equipment and supplies (Health monitors and critical inventory)
- Medicine and pharmaceuticals
- Portable medicine storages
- Patients and personnel location
- Medical records of patients
Each tracked asset gets its own IoT tracking device according to its purpose and use. These devices can be powered by different networks such as LoRaWAN, Wi-Fi, cellular, or any other. TEKTELIC chose LoRaWAN as its primary method of connectivity because it has long-range coverage (up to 15 km), low power consumption, is robust (making it suitable for cold rooms and outdoor environments), and is secure (the encryption layer uses AES-128 encryption and authentication layer uses a unique set of keys shared between devices and the network server).
Use cases of Hospital and Healthcare Asset Tracking
Cold Chain Transportation
One example is the transportation of critical resources, such as vaccines. Using an IoT device with temperature and humidity sensors can help nursing staff to monitor the state of these materials on the move and eliminate the possibility of unplanned maintenance problems.
For example, TEKTELIC has solved the problem of temperature-sensitive vaccine storage with our TUNDRA cold room temperature sensor. A Canadian-based company has turned to us with a need to sustain proper temperature in vaccine storages while in transit. We were happy to offer TUNDRA to monitor temperature levels in a cold chain, which can be placed inside the refrigerator without any additional wiring or equipment needed. It has 10-year battery life and operates in extreme temperatures from -40°C to +85°C with minimal to no impact on radio signal strength.
With IoT devices, workers can reduce costs for fuel, equipment, and other resources. For instance, with GPS and location-tracking technologies, fleet managers can track emergency vehicles and send them updates on better routes and patient locations. The IoT devices will enable real-time communication between logistics managers and hospital staff, which can help reallocate resources to higher-value tasks and optimize the process of asset management.
To satisfy the need for continuous location tracking, TEKTELIC has created LoRaWAN GPS Sensor, which has a ruggedized IP67 design to be used in extreme outdoor conditions and transmits data through LoRaWAN and BLE in addition to GPS. With ORCA, you can have peace of mind about the location of the fleet or valuable packages in transit at any time, anywhere.
This device can be paired with any LoRaWAN-based tracking software, which allows it to automatically associate all the relevant information with the assets, which have already been in the system. The information collected is also helpful for reducing loss, stealing equipment, preventing delays, and keeping track of the movement of assets.
One of the biggest IoT areas of use in healthcare is asset tracking. Smart devices can improve the overall quality of healthcare by preventing inventory shrinkage and facilitating the search for necessary equipment. The asset management system can help hospitals save money and improve the lives of their patients and clinicians. It can prevent unnecessary purchases of inventory and support staff dealing with critical equipment. Additionally, automated asset tracking also helps clinics reduce theft and misuse of their valuable assets.
Health Monitoring in Hospitals
Aside from asset tracking, IoT plays a great role in health monitoring directly. For example, TEKTELIC has successfully introduced eDOCTOR Device to one of the hospitals in Calgary for more precise monitoring of patients’ states during clinical trials. eDOCTOR helps with monitoring the critical indicators of a patient’s health. It monitors body temperature, respiration rate, chest expansion, coughing/sneezing, body position, and heart rate. This device can be helpful for people struggling with respiratory diseases or those participating in clinical trials.
TEKTELIC also offers eBEAT Body Temperature Monitor, a perfect solution for continuously monitoring patient health. It is specially designed to monitor body temperature, heart rate, and blood oxygen level. The washable armband strap allows the device to be worn in any situation and environment. Using this device, medical professionals can monitor patients without compromising privacy and without spending extra time on regular meetings.
What are the Issues Medical Organizations Face?
As healthcare organizations expand, they’re presented with a wide range of issues. LoRaWAN-based asset tracking, in turn, offers a reliable and efficient solution for the challenges these organizations face.
Poor Inventory Management
Inventory in healthcare can be a total mess due to relocated equipment/medical supplies, the absence of a unified database, and human error. Human error in inventory tracking can cause costly supply surpluses or dangerous shortages, so it’s important to delegate this task to a reliable hardware or software solution that helps reduce staff mistakes.
Medication distribution errors are common in hospitals, and a good inventory management system can help reduce these mistakes. In addition to medication, many hospitals have equipment that needs to be stocked and tracked regularly to ensure they’re not missing crucial pieces of medical technology.
Delayed Equipment Maintenance
Many healthcare organizations do not perform effective maintenance due to a lack of knowledge on how the equipment works, how often it is used, and the risks associated with its use. It leads to unexpected equipment breakdowns, costly maintenance, and additional expenses.
Timely scheduled maintenance on medical equipment can help reduce downtime and ensure its longevity. It also saves hospitals money by reducing unexpected breakdowns and prevents them from scrambling to make expensive emergency maintenance calls that will eat up their budget.
Outdated Information about Healthcare Assets
Healthcare facilities don’t often update the information on the assets present, which leads to guessing whether a certain asset is available or not. It might be a life-threatening mistake if patients need IV pumps, mechanical ventilation equipment, or ventricular assist devices but they are not available or cannot be found in a facility.
It creates the necessity for real-time updates on equipment and a well-organized management system to be aware of asset locations at all times.
Weak Data Analysis
These days, healthcare organizations face many data analysis issues, including appointment no-shows, managing the supply chain, decreasing cases of stolen assets, and the inability to effectively manage the supply chain. Consequently, hospitals end up having long lists of expenses, operations downtime, and management confusion.
Integration of smart solutions and healthcare asset tracking software can reveal insights, answer questions, and identify trends based on data collected. It will help health professionals make more informed decisions about managing medical assets as well as organizing better patient care.
For a long time, medical devices had been accumulated over time and stored in yearly reports. Once these assets had been lost or stolen, the hospital invested in a replacement for the missing equipment. A lost piece of equipment can take a bite out of a hospital’s bottom line. In the US, approximately $4,000 worth of medical equipment is lost or stolen each year. This amount of money can be really useful for other purposes in the healthcare sector. That is why healthcare facilities need to keep track of their assets in real time and take action to prevent unwanted losses.
What are the Benefits of Hospital Asset Tracking Systems?
Asset tracking systems provide a comprehensive, streamlined way to track and monitor hospital resources, ensuring accuracy and reducing the amount of time and effort needed to manage inventory. Take a look at the main benefits we’ve gathered for you.
Using asset-tracking solutions, hospitals will better manage and monitor medical equipment. With the help of an asset-tracking solution, clinical staff can monitor stock levels in real time. A notification system informs staff when an inventory is running low and automates ordering for the necessary repair works. A cloud-based or IoT asset tracking solution provides easy access to data anywhere in the world, which can be helpful in case of the need for a main medical institution to monitor the medical assets of its branches.
For effective management, TEKTELIC has developed SPARROW LoRaWAN Asset Tracker, a cost-saving asset-tracking device that allows hospitals to manage and track equipment assets. The device streamlines asset management in the healthcare sector and decreases resourcing and labor costs. SPARROW also makes it easy for hospital staff to locate medical equipment and access maintenance schedules and records.
Adding SPARROW to an inventory system will make hospital equipment easier to manage and maintain. TEKTELIC SPARROW combines the power of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and LoRaWAN technology to offer full property coverage, always-on connectivity, and long battery life of up to 5 years. With SPARROW, hospital staff can instantly view and update the locations of all assets.
Improvement of Patient Care
The process of asset tracking in medical institutions can improve patient care by tracking medical equipment and supplies needed for a particular patient in a particular hospital room. The system can be used to track syringes, gloves, masks, and other items. It can be used to detect when a piece of equipment is out of compliance or needs maintenance.
A medical asset tracking solution also helps reduce the time it takes to access and diagnose patients. For example, a hospital with an intensive care unit may need more oxygen tanks, ventilators, or infusion pumps. This equipment is critical to the patient’s health and life. By tracking medical equipment and its location, hospitals can increase their efficiency and reduce the waiting time in the emergency room, leading to high-quality care.
According to different pieces of research, nurses spend an average of 208 hours each year searching for items. For healthcare facilities, such an amount of time is more than too much, and healthcare providers can save many lives by not wasting this time in the search for critical assets. By automating the process, staff will be able to save time, and resources, and keep the focus on patients having assets found in a matter of minutes.
This helps healthcare facilities avoid unnecessary panic buying and unnecessary expenditures on equipment. It will also help hospital personnel update their medical records instantly across all platforms, including mobile phones.
Smart asset tracking in hospitals ensures the safety of patients. An asset tracking device will automatically engage security protocols when an asset approaches doors or elevators using a real-time location system. Reports can also show how the assets were moved and how long they were on their way. With detailed reports, a healthcare facility will be sure to have all resources for asset management and know when fixes and safety re-evaluations are needed.
What to Consider When Choosing an Asset Tracking System?
It might be hard to choose the right asset-tracking system, so here is the list of the most meaningful things:
When choosing a tracking system, ensure the system can grow with your hospital’s needs. This means the system should be able to accommodate any changes in the number of assets or the types of assets being tracked. For example, all TEKTELIC devices are created to be scalable, with the possibility of expanding the network and addressing facility needs.
Ensure the system can integrate with existing hospital software and databases. The system needs to offer a variety of integrations to provide staff with the tools they need to get the job done. This will allow the system to draw upon existing information and provide a comprehensive, real-time view of the hospital’s assets.
Ensure the system can protect sensitive healthcare data and is compliant with industry standards. The system should include measures such as encryption, access control, and intrusion detection in order to protect the data it stores.
The cost of a tracking system can vary depending on the functionality and scope of the software. It will depend on the number of features that are needed, like location tracking, asset utilization analytics, and other functionalities. So, you should consider the total cost of the system, including not only hardware but also software licenses.
Make sure the system is easy to use and understand. It should have an intuitive user interface that allows users to quickly and easily learn how to use the system. You need to remember that users will be medical specialists with low or no technical knowledge at all.
Make sure the system is reliable and capable of performing its job without interruption. This means the system should be able to handle large amounts of data and should be able to run without any errors or crashes for effective management.
TEKTELIC takes reliability very seriously, so, for example, our KONA Micro IoT Gateway, which is often used in healthcare, has a 4-hour battery backup, so even if the main source of power is shut down, the gateway keeps operating and transmits data to the network. It ensures all-time asset visibility and reliable inventory management.
Ensure the system can generate accurate and timely reports. This will help organize scheduled maintenance and see how certain assets perform (whether some of them are barely used or there is a shortage of some equipment pieces).
Make sure the hospital equipment tracking system of your choice is backed by reliable customer support. This will ensure that any issues that arise can be quickly and effectively resolved.
By choosing TEKTELIC as a partner in hospital automation, you can be sure to have continuous support in all stages of the customer journey, from choosing a necessary device to post-deployment help and consultation.
What Does TEKTELIC Offer as an Asset Management Software?
We believe that the best healthcare asset tracking software has built-in analytics and customizable dashboards that allow for overcoming many challenges connected to equipment. That is why TEKTELIC offers the LOCUS Application, which is created to notify users when certain assets are on the move, reducing the risk of misplaced assets, reducing time spent searching for these assets, and increasing overall productivity.
The true value of such healthcare software lies in its accessibility, so people can use control assets remotely from multiple sites through radio waves. RFID technology supported by our devices allows gateways to receive signals wirelessly sending data right to mobile devices.
TEKTELIC medical asset tracking solutions help identify movable and fixed assets around the facility and beyond. The RFID tags embedded in our smart sensors are either embedded or attached to the assets. Readers, in turn, are placed in various locations around the clinic. Using a web app or mobile device, healthcare personnel can easily track assets that are movable and not only to know their precise location but also to develop solutions for storage and maintenance before valuable assets arrive.
Other Popular Software Solutions
Using a standardized one-log inventory system allows companies to determine depreciation costs and longevity of assets for insurance and tax purposes but it doesn’t give the full picture of the working capabilities or features of the particular asset. Modern, IoT-based software asset tracking systems, in turn, can provide comprehensive information about the assets, including their peculiarities, asset performance, asset status, asset locations, and asset utilization. That’s why it’s important to find the right solution for your needs.
The advantages of hospital asset tracking cannot be overemphasized as it provides comprehensive information about the assets, including their condition, location, and stock levels. The IoT asset management devices help with this task and can streamline the hospital’s operations, saving workers time and helping to achieve greater accuracy and care quality. So, if you need to improve hospital inventory management, the Internet of Things might be a perfect solution to go with.
Want to know even more? Reach out to the TEKTELIC sales team and buy LoRaWAN sensors, which will bring your asset management system to a completely different level.