RFID – Asset / Equipment Tracking

Even before the recent RFID mandates were introduced, the problems of managing and tracking equipment and assets have plagued hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide. Ranging from bed facilities, IV pumps, surgical equipment, to wheel chairs, there are assets and equipment that create challenges for the healthcare facility.

 

Analyzing the operational and economic challenges, these problems are:

  •  Labor  costs associated with individuals to search for the equipment when needed
  • Time lost because of the equipment not being available as needed
  •  Increased inventory costs to purchase or rent the equipment due to lack of availability
  • Staff frustration with operational inefficiencies

Even with well defined material processes, emergencies and unexpected events cause equipment to be misplaced, which leads to time-intensive searches, device hoarding, high replacement costs, and many undefined problems.

 

RFID technology offers a remedy to these problems through active RFID tags that can be placed on the equipment or the asset. The types of RFID technologies are: Passive and Active - Real time Location Services (RTLS) or Hybrid Technologies (sensors and integrated solutions).

 

Passive RFID tags such as bar code systems often require a person to manually scan a tag or a label to capture the data. But the active RFID tags automatically transmit data or location information. The active RFID tags can detect any movement, tampering, or environmental conditions through the use of sensors incorporated in the tags. Active RFID tags are available in a variety of shapes and forms for different types of assets or equipment. Depending on the characteristics of the facility, requirements of the facility or organization, and the importance of the equipment or the asset, an RFID tag placed in a specific area or range of the facility can read the signal to manage or track the asset.


 The simple concept is to place a transponder (a microchip with an antenna) on an item and then use a reader (a device with one or more antennas) to read data off the microchip using radio waves. The reader then passes the captured information to a computer so that the information can be used to create business value.

For example, the wheelchairs, beds or IV pumps may be within a building on some floor, but to be located when in need can be a concern.

 

Highlighting the financial savings from RFID technology into equipment tracking in healthcare industry:

 

·    Not being able to locate the equipment, hospitals buy extra or replacement devices for availability, which causes high annual spending and many devices are  left unutilized or  under  utilized.  Using RFID to manage these  devices increases  the  utilization  rate,  cuts  annual  spending,  allows  divestment  of under-utilized assets, and improves confidence that equipment is always be available when needed.

 

·    With RFID equipment tracking in place, expensive medical devices can be quickly brought into control by alerts based on location and notification when a device leaves a predefined area.

 

·    Equipment  management  with  RFID  can  eliminate  inefficient,  long  manual searches for assets that need maintenance or need to be returned to central processing units, and can maintain up-to date equipment status.

 

·    With a decrease in patient wait time, there is improved patient care, more employee satisfaction for nurses, technicians, doctors, etc., lower per-patient cost of service delivery, effective work flow, and operational efficiency with support staff always at hand.

 

·    Most importantly, the risk of loosing equipments is reduced with better control of equipment usage.


Any  application  that  has  the  basic  functionality  and  can  be  tailored  to  an organization’s needs is always preferred over complete custom applications that are time consuming, costly to develop, and complicate the return on investment. Many of the organizations prefer web based applications based on industry standards that have the flexibility to operate on different platforms and can easily interface to other host systems.

 

RFID is a solution that enables a nurse, a technician, or an authorized employee to easily  determine  the  location  of  equipment,  run  queries  or  reports  to  provide inventory information, parametric searches, graphical representation to identify the location of the equipment or the asset, and also manage the service and maintenance of the equipment using any computer tied into the network. The results of these applications  are  beginning  to  provide  proof  that  using  RFID  technology  in  the healthcare industry provides significant labor savings, improved efficiency, and a good return on investment.