Supply chains are difficult; pharma supply chains are even more difficult. But the recent pandemic era has taught us that the most essential thing is better medical asset tracking — transporting the right medical equipment, at the right time, to the right place and people. Nothing is more critical than an oxygen cylinder when a patient struggles to breathe or a perfectly functioning patient monitor when a patient has had a heart attack.The urgency of the requirement itself makes medical asset tracking one of the most essential and challenging tasks to handle in healthcare supply chains. Let us look at how medical asset tracking works and what kind of a system would best work, even in a whirlwind situation.
When dealing with patient safety, time is of utmost importance, even more so when dealing with essential resources like medicines, vaccines, and medical assets like ventilators and oxygen cylinders. When a patient’s health needs urgent attention, every second matters, and that’s where medical asset tracking comes into the picture. It would help if you made sure that the right equipment reaches its destination on time to ensure patient health, and in some cases, survival.
Imagine how much more essential these things become in a scenario where there is an emergency everywhere, a shortage of equipment, and a never-ending count of patients. Moreover, in a situation similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are even ‘pop-up’ hospitals to manage. Let’s look at why it is important to manage medical asset tracking, why it is so challenging, and the solution you need to invest in for a safer future.
Why Is Medical Asset Tracking Important?
A well-managed medical asset tracking system is vital to ensure hospitals get equipment on time from outside and make sure they’re well-organized and available in the hospital premises. There are cases when mobile assets like patient monitors and ventilators are unavailable when needed the most. It’s like losing a TV remote, or car keys, except those aren’t life-threatening situations. Additionally, losing such equipment comes with considerable costs to replace them, sometimes urgently, at a higher price. When operational costs are already soaring, all this could affect the ROI and, more importantly, patient health.
When dealing with patient health, losing visibility on the equipment would be the last thing a hospital wants. Not knowing the correct location and availability information on the equipment would make asset utilization even harder. A list of medical equipment that every hospital always needs to have ready would comprise ventilators, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, defibrillators, stretchers, patient monitors, surgical lights, beds and a lot more.
What Makes Handling Medical Assets Challenging?
Every year, hospitals at a global level lose hospital equipment like wheelchairs & sterilizers and face the unavailability of expensive life-saving equipment like oxygen cylinders, concentrators, and ventilators when needed most. Hospital logistics managers face more challenges than just handling medicine and vaccine distribution, one of the biggest being hospital equipment management, especially during times like the current pandemic.
Medical asset mismanagement has been observed as one of the common causes for lower output efficiency in most healthcare operations. Tracking assets is not only hard when they’re being transported to the hospital in a shipment but also within the hospital premises.
Let us look at what exactly makes it essential to have a well-managed medical asset tracking solution:
1. Human Error in Traditional Asset Tracking Methods — Tracking medical devices and equipment through manual processes like maintaining spreadsheets or keeping manual registers makes the system error-prone, inaccessible, and unnecessarily time-consuming.
2. Inventory Mismanagement — Most hospitals overstock inventory due to potential loss and prior experience of missing equipment. Wrong inventory estimation due to an improper tracking system could lead to more inventory management problems, thereby adding costs.
3. Replacement Costs — Replacing the lost or stolen equipment adds a lot to the overall costs since there are heavy spends on new equipment to replace the lost ones.
4. Cost of Lost Person-Hours — The time spent searching for lost equipment ultimately adds to monetary loss — loss of person-hours and wages due to hours spent searching lost assets.
5. Impact on Patient Experience — Missing equipment directly means delays in treatment, reduced patient safety, more wait time, and an overall bad patient experience. Imagine a delay in an operation because the patient couldn’t be treated in time due to missing equipment!
6. Patient Life-Endangerment — In situations where missing equipment could mean delayed treatment or, worse yet, loss of life, hospital assets become irreplaceable. For instance, nothing can replace the functionality of a ventilator for a patient struggling to breathe. This is especially true in situations like a serious COVID-19 patient with weakened lungs.