"Clinicians Are Manually Logging Medical Equipment Usage: It’s Costing Our Hospital Valuable Time"
Updated: Jun 21
In recent years, the adoption of GS1 standards has prompted a significant transformation across hospitals, encouraging decision-makers to utilise mobile devices, barcoding, and RFID technologies to digitalise processes and improve their provision of patient care. That being said, even with these standards in place, there are many hospitals lagging behind in their use of asset management technologies, or neglecting opportunities to automate day-to-day tasks, optimise processes and improve efficiencies, expenditure and overall returns.
So, where can NHS and private trusts look to realise some immediate wins?
Improved Inventory Management: Barcoding & Clinical-Grade Devices
A lot of hospitals already use barcode technology to help manage their inventories and conduct stock counts. In a report by Lord Carter of Coles for the Department of Health, it was stated that individual hospitals can improve patient care and save an average of £3 million each year simply by making use of barcoding technology.
Barcoding technology is an essential step in the right direction for managing over-ordering of stock and product waste.
As an overview, the key benefits of deploying barcoding technologies are as follows:
- Automate pen-and-paper logging process
- Eliminate risk of misplaced information
- Authenticate clinical medicines in line with the Falsified Medicines Directive (to ensure
medication hasn't been tampered with or doctored in any way)
- Deliver visibility of asset lifecycles and expiry dates
Advanced Inventory Management: RFID Technology
While barcoding can provide workers with view of what an asset is and where it has been, RFID tags have integrated barcode functionality, and give more critical information to workers, in real-time.
Instead of of having to pick up each item in a stock room and scan it, RFID tags enable workers to simply wave a reader within range of the items intended to be counted - so multiple items can be scanned at once. As an example, it would typically takes a person over 2 minutes to write down the information of twelve pill bottles, whereas it takes just 37.9 seconds to scan the containers using a barcode scanner. An RFID scanner can pick up all twelve products in just over one second.
As an overview, the key benefits of deploying RFID technologies are as follows:
- Automate entire inventory logging process
- Ensure medication and general asset lifecycles are automatically logged, alerting clinicians when shelf lives are nearing expiry
- Eliminate need for manual scanning of assets
- Deliver visibility of full asset journeys (from entry into hospitals, through storeroom movements, to point of care and beyond)
- Locate critical equipment in real-time (to their exact spot within a ward or store)
Case Study: Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH)
Often it takes a great example of digitalised inventory management for hospitals to realise the necessity of transforming their processes. Addenbrookes Hospital - part of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH) - was one of the first NHS trusts in the UK to introduce GS1 standards for tracking medical devices. One of their most significant projects involved streamlining theatre inventory management by introducing an RFID-tagged, consumption-led inventory management system.
Problem: Like many hospitals, Addenbrookes was initially holding a high level of stock at theatre level: it was tying up capital, taking up space, and requiring theatre staff to manually report stock usage. It was time consuming, and gave rise to human errors.
Solution: Now, all equipment that CUH theatre staff require for a specific procedure is collated in a patient-specific tote box, which contains a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag to allow its unique identification. With this system in place, CUH can now accurately capture the cost of each operation and, at the same time, allow clinical staff to focus on patient care.
Outcome: By creating a leaner, consumption-led system for theatre inventory management, CUH were able to reduce their store rooms from three rooms to just one, while bringing their cost-per-case down by between 2.5 and 7.4% in the specialties where the solution was first deployed. Transactional activities were also able to be transferred to procurement teams and automated, in some places. This led to a 69% drop in manual purchase orders across the theatre's directorate.
How To Deploy Such Technologies?
MiTEQ works with a framework of industry-leading technology solution providers that help us to supply public and private healthcare facilities with comprehensive IT solutions. When it comes to inventory management, we can help you take the initial steps towards barcoding technology, and then help you optimise and advance your use of data-capture and processing technologies to ensure you're maximising your returns and making patient care as simple and seamless as possible.
If you drop us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org, we will gladly help you source and deploy the most effective cost-saving, efficiency-driving technologies to meet your needs and requirements.