What Mobile Medical Equipment Hospitals Track with Real-Time Location Systems, and Why

RTLS Asset Tracking

by Mary Jagim RN, MSN, CEN, FAEN | CNO at Infinite Leap

To ensure high-quality patient care, a hospital’s staff uses a plethora of medical equipment. An average inpatient hospital bed has 7 mobile assets assigned per bed. Multiply that by the total number of beds and a 500-bed hospital might have 3,500 mobile equipment pieces that need to be cleaned, restocked and adequately maintained.

If your role in a hospital is to take care of those thousands of pieces of mobile equipment, tracking the location and status of it all is not an easy task. Thankfully, a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) can make your job much easier to manage.

With RTLS, medical staff can quickly locate the equipment they need to deliver patient care, while the clinical engineering team can use this technology to promptly find equipment that is due for preventive maintenance or removal from service when it’s broken or recalled.

If you are curious about all the ways you might benefit from tracking with RTLS, here’s a list of the five most common ways that hospitals are using it based on the number of tagged assets.

1. Infusion Pumps
It’s not all that surprising that the most frequently tagged type of mobile equipment in a hospital is infusion pumps, especially IV modules and controllers. The main reason is that they are almost always used when delivering inpatient care, whether it’s to keep a patient hydrated or administer medications. Therefore, the demand for IV pumps always remains very high.

2. Beds
Second on the list is beds, especially specialty beds, such as bariatric beds. Many of these assets are leased from a rental company, so implementing RTLS empowers the hospital to know if equipment is no longer in use and reduce rental costs.

3. Patient Monitors
Patient monitors are third when it comes to how hospitals use their RTLS solutions. That includes transport monitors, telemetry monitors and vital signs monitors. If you cannot find these crucial devices quickly, the whole workflow process can be delayed.

4. Patient Transport Equipment
Assets related to patient transport, such as stretchers and wheelchairs, are also common for tagging. It might sound trivial, but if you cannot safely transport the patient, you will cause bottlenecks in patient flow, such as patient transfer or discharge. And don’t forget that many wheelchairs end up unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) in patients’ vehicles – knowing when they are about to leave a facility can be helpful.

5. Carts
Carts, such as crash carts, rank in this Top 5 list precisely because of their critical nature. When you need a crash cart, there is no time to waste – it needs to be located fast, as every second counts when it comes to saving lives.

The above list of common uses is based on the total number of assets, but there are also specific types of equipment that a hospital decides to tag because of their limited availability. Portable ultrasounds or video laryngoscopes, for example, are specialized equipment that hospitals might minimally own due to relatively high costs or occasional use.

Healthcare organizations might even tag something that costs as much, or even less, than the asset tag itself. It might seem like an odd idea if you’re concerned about ROI, but because the absence of a relatively inexpensive item – let’s say a temporal thermometer or a child-size pressure cuff in an urgent clinic – can interrupt the entire workflow, the return on this seemingly unimportant investment is high. You can prevent patient visits from becoming longer than they should be, all because you did not waste valuable time on searching for a piece of equipment.

As you can see just from these few examples, being able to locate equipment quickly and accurately isn’t just for the benefit of clinical engineers. In most cases, RTLS is all about ensuring patient safety and well-orchestrated care – and it all comes down to more efficiently tracking the beds, monitors and almost anything else that you already have.