Using RTLS to track and manage assets in a healthcare facility

To provide excellent patient care requires immediate access to necessary specialist medical equipment. When somebody’s life is on the line, mere seconds can make all the difference. In the frantic environment of healthcare facilities, this is a challenge that many hospital staff face every day. It’s of vital importance that the right medical assets are fully functional and readily accessible to hospital personnel so they can react swiftly and with confidence in the equipment they’re using.

Implementing a comprehensive combination of asset management software and a real time locating system (RTLS) means that you can not only properly inventory and maintain all mobile medical equipment, but empower staff to be able to proactively determine asset location quickly and easily.

But what is RTLS healthcare asset tracking? How does it work, and how can it benefit the operation of a healthcare provider?


Why is medical asset tracking important?

Tracking medical equipment is massively important for the running of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. First and foremost, the high cost of professional medical assets: organizations want to get the most out of the devices at their disposal. By properly inventorying all available equipment, it’s easier to ensure everything is being used regularly and proportionately, rather than some items being overlooked while others are pushed to their limit. This both increases the longevity of the devices and allows for strategic distribution to fulfill requirements in all areas around the facility.

Another important aspect of hospital asset tracking relates to scheduled maintenance. Many of the machines and medical assets used throughout a hospital are mobile, making them subject to accidental damage and general wear and tear. Preventive maintenance can prolong the lifespan of mobile devices, reducing costs and ensuring staff are fully equipped. Keeping stock of all equipment is also a vital necessity in the event that a device is damaged or rendered inoperable. While it’s being repaired, all other equipment will need to be redistributed to offset the shortfall.

Unfortunately, doing this manually is labor-intensive and takes up valuable resources around a healthcare organization. With an accurate automated tracking system, this can be done effectively and efficiently, no longer putting demand on an asset manager to actively seek out and retrieve items listed for scheduled maintenance. Real time locating medical assets takes healthcare asset tracking to the next level. By fitting each device with an RTLS tag, you can identify exactly where they are in the hospital at any given time. Staff are then able to quickly locate and utilize critical equipment when needed.


Using RTLS to track medical devices in healthcare facilities

Using RTLS in hospitals makes locating healthcare equipment and recording device maintenance far simpler and more effective. Thanks to the range of technologies incorporated in them, attaching RTLS tags to pieces of equipment provides various solutions to track medical assets throughout a healthcare facility.

RFID technology gives each tag a unique identifier, which is attributed to the device it’s attached to. This allows the creation of a centralized database, which itemizes each healthcare asset for easy identification and management. When used in conjunction with a hospital-wide network connection and medical equipment asset tracking software, this database becomes a powerful tool to manage and locate healthcare assets.

The RTLS tags developed by AiRISTA operate using a multitude of connectivity options, allowing them to integrate into the existing wireless infrastructure of a hospital. The simplest solutions involve using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled connections so that tags can communicate wirelessly with the hospital network and each other. This combination results in asset tracking to a high level of accuracy, able to ascertain an item’s specific location down to one meter.


The benefits of RTLS in healthcare asset management

Recording device maintenance is an onerous task in healthcare facilities. The sheer number of assets that require cataloging, locating, servicing and distributing is challenging enough in itself. When the logistics of this is also factored into the equation, it grows even further in its complexity.

If, for example, a hospital has 200 IV pumps, there is only a small percentage of those that should be “out of circulation” at any given time — say, 10% — to ensure there are still sufficient operational pumps available for use. A manual process of scheduling and implementing preventive maintenance requires a lot of planning and consideration to ensure that a maximum of 20 IV pumps are being serviced at any given time. Not to mention the practicalities of having to physically locate and retrieve the right pumps from around the hospital. As a mobile medical device that could be required on any ward at any given time, IV pumps are notoriously sought after and seemingly elusive.

Using an RTLS solution consolidates asset data into an easy-to-access system that can be used to manage the maintenance scheduling, locating and distributing of active devices. This allows asset managers to reduce the risk of device shortage at any given time, while keeping critical equipment properly serviced and maintained in a timely and efficient manner.


Staff safety and tracking medical patients with RTLS

On top of asset management, another excellent benefit to implementing an RTLS solution is that the same technology can be used to track staff and allow them to communicate with one another. This is particularly pertinent in the event of a volatile situation where a healthcare provider requires assistance from a colleague. Dedicated staff RTLS fobs can include panic buttons, alarms and text screens so that those nearest to a staff member under duress can be informed as a priority. The real time locating feature of the tags means staff can be guided to the right location to intervene as swiftly as possible.

RTLS tags can also be used to give staff visibility of patient whereabouts and activity. Wristbands with the same RTLS technology can be given to patients on arrival, which allows hospital staff the ability to ascertain the location of a patient quickly and unobtrusively. This can improve patient safety, particularly in the case of those at risk of wandering or falling, as well as making sure that any physical assets imperative to a patient’s care are in close proximity to them at all times.

With the additional functionality of a programmable button on medical patient RTLS wristbands, it’s also possible to use this for the benefit of the patient’s care. For instance, it can be programmed as an alarm button in case of a fall or other emergency requiring urgent response from a member of their healthcare team.

At AiRISTA we have been providing RFID tag and comprehensive RTLS solutions to hospitals for over 10 years. Our experience and refined approach has resulted in our recognition by Gartner as a Leader in the Magic Quadrant for indoor location.

To find out more about how AiRISTA healthcare asset tracking software can help you get the most out of your medical equipment, patient care and staff management, book a free demo today.