由 Carol Ko
, Staff Writer | November 25, 2013
From the November 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
In one case, one of Peck’s customers eventually located a missing wound vacuum in the trash using his company’s tracking system. Wound vacuums are a prime example of equipment that benefits from being tagged: they’re relatively small, easy to misplace, and very expensive, running around $20,000-$25,000. “So, a biohazard group was called in to sift through the trash can,” Peck recalls with a laugh.
One of Cook’s customers actually stopped the same $8,000 HoverMatt mattress from going out with the trash twice in one week. “They used the tracking system to figure out that it was the same department both times,” he says.
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This actually gets at another useful function of tracking systems: not only do they prevent valuable equipment from being lost, they can also allow providers to track certain patterns of loss over time so they can pinpoint why certain losses keep happening.
Furthermore, keeping better tabs on supplies can break bad work habits. Nursing staff often resort to hoarding equipment so they don’t have to scramble for it later.
“We hear a lot about that from our customers, particularly with infusion pumps,” says Arvid Gomez, president of Sonitor Technologies, a manufacturer of ultrasound-based RTLS systems. “Before a hospital installs RTLS and tags these devices, nurses would spend a lot of time hunting for the pumps and would often hide them to ensure that they had access. With RTLS tracking, that problem goes away.”
Tracking lost equipment enables hospitals to save not only on replacement costs, but lost productivity as well. “We know that in a typical facility some six to eight hours per day of clinical staff time is spent looking for equipment,” says Gomez.
But nurses aren’t the only staff members throwing a wrench in the works.
“In one case, we had one physician who was telling patients they could take their sequential compression pumps home with them — so they lost 100 over a couple of years,” says Marcus Ruark, vice president of marketing for Intelligent InSites, a software company that focuses on operational solutions for hospitals.
Such information can give hospitals the insight they need to take action to prevent loss in the long term. “If the data shows you that a lot of items have gone missing down a certain hallway, you may question why that is happening,” says Ruark. Sometimes, the solution may be as simple as putting up a sign in that hallway reminding employees to make sure they’re putting items back in their place. “It’s something you put in place based on what the information is showing you.”