BehrTech Blog

3 Great Benefits of IoT for Healthcare Asset Management

Never before is the worldwide healthcare sector under such an enormous strain. Hospitals are in a fight for essential medical supplies as resources quickly dwindles. The global pandemic has surely triggered an unprecedented crisis. But, if we look back on shortly before all this happened, the healthcare industry had long been struggling with effective asset management and resource utilization.

The Challenge of Healthcare Asset Management in Numbers

According to GE Healthcare, hospitals own 35000 inventory SKU, but the utilization rate hovers between 32 and 38 percent. Large amounts of assets routinely get “lost in inventory” due to misplacement and misuse and simply couldn’t be found when they are needed. The lack of resource visibility is also a major underlying cause of dampened productivity among healthcare workers. Typically, a nurse spends 20 minutes per shift only trying to search for the required equipment, which causes a $500,000 loss in non-productive work. What’s more, failing to know where the assets are, could result in poor maintenance of tools and equipment, and delay responses when emergencies arise.

Medical instrument theft is another issue that’s just as pressing. In England alone, a staggering £13 million worth of hospital equipment at the National Health Service (NHS) facilities goes missing annually. In Germany, one of the latest incidents involved almost 50,000 stolen protective face masks from the logistics center for Cologne’s medical clinics. Beyond the high costs of asset replacement, these theft incidents are conducive to a much more dreadful consequence: Patients may not be able to get timely treatment, given the absence of lifesaving equipment.

The current situation has urged global healthcare providers to rethink the way they manage their assets in the long run. Manual record-keeping approaches with Excel and electronic databases have proved to fall short as they are labor-intensive while leaving plenty of room for errors. Without the knowledge of where the assets are and how they are being used/stored, hospitals risk not only losing and wasting their critical resources but also impairing care quality. In times of crisis, these challenges can quickly escalate.

How Could IoT Help in Healthcare Asset Management?

With the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless tracking solutions and real-time location systems have stepped in to tackle asset management problems across industries. In healthcare, the potential impact is tremendous. By implementing an IoT-enabled wireless tracking system, hospitals can establish a real-time map of all critical mobile assets across their facilities – from patient beds and wheelchairs to defibrillators, infusion pumps, ventilators and portable endoscopy equipment. Having location data of medical instruments at their fingertips, staff can swiftly mobilize tools and equipment as required. At the same time, underutilized assets that have been idle for a long time could be effectively pinpointed.

In parallel to location tracking, IoT environmental sensors could also be deployed to ensure optimal storage conditions of medical supplies. For example, they can continuously monitor the temperature and humidity of pharmaceutical products or air quality at sterile storage rooms for clean instruments. This way, any failures of HVAC equipment could be timely detected for immediate counteractions.

By rendering illuminating insights into existing assets and their conditions, IoT empowers healthcare service providers to enhance operations and resource efficiency in multiple ways.

1. Workflow Optimization and Faster Responses

To keep up with the influx of patients, medical equipment must be readily available and can function properly and safely. Being able to locate assets within seconds, front-line nurses can eliminate wasted search time to improve productivity, shorten patients’ waiting time and accelerate responses in emergencies. Effective tracking also means that equipment and tools can be timely sanitized, serviced or re-ordered to be immediately ready when they are needed most.

2. Improved Asset Utilization

Knowing exactly which assets have sat unused for a while, hospital staff can reassess their demand and consider transferring them to other locations and facilities that are in higher need. With location data, misplacement and theft attempts can also be detected to circumvent inventory shrinkage and increase utilization rate.

3. Better Resource Allocation

Complete asset visibility allows for accurate stock calculation and usage forecast, so hospital managers can make informed purchasing decisions to minimize redundant orders. This, in turn, eliminates surplus inventory of low-usage assets and associated maintenance costs, so financial resources can be diverted to high-demand vital equipment.

Final Thoughts

As medical treatments become increasingly sophisticated, the amount of dispersed equipment, tools and instruments used in hospital operations has drastically grown. In this context, effective asset management is crucial to ensure patients could have immediate access to medical supplies and capital investment is successfully allocated to good use. Having a system in place to optimize resource usage and workflow execution not only augments healthcare quality, but also facilitates quick and agile responses when emergencies arise.

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