Healthcare Asset Tracking (Quick-Start Guide)
Healthcare organizations and hospitals rely on a nearly endless amount of tools, machinery, and other assets to provide quality healthcare to patients.
Between items getting lost, forgotten, or even stolen, it can be incredibly challenging (and costly) to keep track of healthcare assets.
In 2021, about $1.4 million worth of medical equipment were stolen.
Healthcare assets don’t just include the medical equipment you use in direct care but also other hardware you use, like your computers or other administrative technology.
Without effective healthcare asset tracking in place, equipment may break down sooner than necessary, machinery may be lost, and tech used to track patient records and medical billing could become outdated or even compromised due to hacking.
Healthcare organizations must implement effective asset tracking to ensure operations run smoothly, patients are taken care of as best as possible, and costs are minimized.
In this article, we’ll break down the basics of healthcare asset tracking, including what it is, why it’s important, how it works, and the best practices you can use to improve operations at your healthcare practice or facility.
What is healthcare asset tracking?
Curious about what asset tracking in healthcare is?
Healthcare asset tracking is tracking assets used within a healthcare facility like a hospital. Asset tracking in healthcare aims to ensure that assets like machinery, medical equipment, computers, technology, and medicine are maintained, monitored, and kept safe to get the most value and performance.
Asset tracking in healthcare is an important practice for business owners, and operators should invest time and resources to streamline business operations and improve efficiencies and their bottom line.
A great healthcare asset tracking strategy (when paired with robust asset-tracking software) can help healthcare owners and managers improve operations, minimize wasted time, and reduce costs.
What are examples of healthcare assets?
Healthcare assets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are the most common types:
- Medical tools
- IT software
Why is asset tracking important in healthcare?
Asset tracking is important for any business looking to improve operations, create workplace efficiencies, and improve profitability.
Time spent looking for equipment, expenses for lost or stolen equipment, and reduced productivity due to clunky processes are just a few reasons why tracking your assets properly plays a major role in your organization’s success.
But, it’s even more important for healthcare businesses — dealing with life and death.
Here are a few reasons why asset tracking is important in healthcare:
1. Better patient care
The most important reason why healthcare owners and managers should invest more time into improving their asset tracking is to improve patient care.
Optimized asset tracking means nurses and doctors will spend less time hunting down lost equipment, allowing them to spend more time caring for patients.
The majority of nurses admit they’re too busy to provide the level of patient care they’d like.
If a nurse, for example, needs to get a medical device for a patient, but it’s been misplaced, they may have to spend time trying to find it.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals must combat enough to work effectively — staff shortages, outdated equipment, limited patient rooms, and more.
The quicker a healthcare professional can care for a patient, the quicker the patient is likely to recover. Plus, with care times sped up, recovering patients can make room for new patients so they can get the care they need.
2. Reduce lost and stolen goods
Remember the nurse we mentioned who was hunting down a medical device for a patient? Well, with effective hospital asset tracking, those instances will be drastically reduced.
With improved asset tracking in a hospital, nurses and doctors can quickly identify where a medical device is by simply opening up an app.
For example, with asset tracking software like RedBeam, you can immediately see the exact location of your asset (and who checked it out last).
When you’re tracking your assets better, you can also prevent or reduce an unfortunate reality: stolen equipment.
With asset tracking software, you'll be able to see the complete history of your assets: who checked it out and where it was last. With a clear (digital) paper trail, it’ll be easier to identify if an item has been stolen (or is lost).
3. Lower costs
Without proper asset tracking, healthcare professionals will inevitably spend a fraction of their workdays looking for equipment and other assets.
How much time they spend depends on how efficient your asset tracking system is.
Will they spend 10 minutes a day looking for equipment? 20? 30?
How much time is that in a month?
One of the largest expenses for healthcare owners is labor.
If your workforce is spending hundreds or thousands of hours each month just looking for different assets, that takes a major toll on your expenses.
By implementing an asset tracking system, you’ll be able to cut back on your expenses by reducing labor costs.
Additionally, with improved asset tracking, there will be fewer lost and stolen assets. You already know how expensive medical equipment can be. With improved asset tracking, you’ll be able to save thousands every year on reduced replacement costs.
4. Automate processes
Another way asset tracking can improve your healthcare business is by automating processes. Leveraging asset management software allows you to tap into modern technology to improve workplace processes.
For example, you can automate this process if you currently rely on a paper-based check-in and check-out system.
With asset tracking software, employees can quickly tap a button on their smartphone or desktop computer to assign an asset to themselves.
Additionally, your asset tracking software can track your entire fleet of assets — whether medical equipment, computers, smartphones or tablets, vehicles, or other assets. You’ll be able to quickly track costs, total asset value, and more to improve your financial reporting. Additionally, you can help automate your expense forecasting with more accurate data sets.
5. Improve efficiencies
The healthcare industry deals with several facets that require significant care and attention from employees — including staff, administrators, and managers.
When a healthcare practice is overwhelmed with an influx of patients, limited equipment, or reduced staff, it puts a ton of pressure on the organization’s operational efficiency.
If healthcare management can reduce even a single friction point in their operations, it can improve processes and productivity to ensure maximum efficiency.
For example, let’s say 50 healthcare professionals work in one division of a hospital. If they can each save five minutes a day by not looking for equipment (by implementing asset tracking software), that’s 250 minutes saved every day that can be applied to other areas of the organization.
Every week, that’s 1,750 minutes that can now be allocated to improving the facility operations in new ways — whether it’s improved patient care, management, or even a five-minute break for healthcare professionals to destress and improve their mental health so they can perform better.
How do hospitals track equipment?
Curious how hospitals and other healthcare facilities track equipment?
Well, there are a variety of technologies that can be used to collect data on an asset. The main way is by using an asset tag — a physical element added to a physical asset to keep track of it.
Asset tags can come in a variety of formats, including the following:
- RFID tags
- QR codes
- And more
While each asset tag has advantages and disadvantages, the most common healthcare asset tags are RFID tags.
RFID asset tracking tags can be placed on hospital equipment to provide real-time data on the location, status, and who has checked it out.
RFID tags relay this data to asset tracking software, allowing healthcare staff to open their app to see information on any asset anytime.
Additionally, management and healthcare staff know they’ll be able to find an asset (or at least know where it is) at any point in time and that it’s available when they need it.
Best practices for asset tracking in healthcare
Want to get the most out of your healthcare assets?
Here are six best practices for asset tracking in healthcare.
1. Perform a complete audit
The first step to establishing effective healthcare asset tracking is identifying where you’re at.
This means running a thorough audit of all of your assets.
This includes everything from medical equipment to machinery to smartphones to tablets.
Take a count on everything you have, where it’s located, and how much it’s worth.
Add everything to a spreadsheet. When you set up your asset tracking software, you can also input all data into the platform to have initial data points on all your equipment.
You should categorize your assets by:
- Years in service
- Manufacturer information
Including this key information on your assets will make them easier to manage in the long run.
You can also include prior maintenance records and the current operational status. This means including inoperable assets (in need of repair or replacement).
2. Choose your asset tags
Once you’ve got a clear picture of all of your assets, it’s time to find and add asset tags.
Remember, you can use a few different types of asset tags, but the most popular healthcare asset tag is RFID technology.
Since healthcare assets are typically subject to environmental hazards and regular sanitization, the tag you choose must withstand frequent exposure to these conditions.
Once you’ve selected your asset tags, it’s time to place them on everything.
While this may seem tedious, it’s imperative to ensure you can accurately track and manage your healthcare assets.
Once the tags are on, you can track every asset (and all associated information).
3. Develop a lifecycle management plan
Next, it’s time to develop a lifecycle management plan.
This means understanding how long each of your asset’s life cycles are.
Once you know how long your assets will last, you can craft a strategy to ensure they live as long (or longer) as expected.
Keeping your assets in working condition for as long as possible is a key part of a successful asset management plan.
By understanding how long your assets will be operable in your organization, you can determine how often to conduct maintenance, how often you’ll need to replace assets, and how much of your budget to set aside for your assets to maintain positive cash flow.
4. Plan and schedule regular maintenance
A key part of developing an asset lifecycle management plan is maintenance.
If you want to get the most value out of your assets in the long haul, then you must regularly maintain all assets.
If you neglect maintenance, you’ll end up with assets becoming unusable sooner than they should. Plus, you’ll likely rack up expensive repairs and replacement costs.
You can use your asset tracking software to schedule maintenance (and track maintenance history) to ensure your assets provide value to your organization as long as possible.
5. Establish a check-in and check-out system
With a robust asset management platform like RedBeam, you can enable your employees to check out assets through the app.
With a proper check-in and check-out system, your employees can see what assets are available for check-out. Plus, you’ll be able to see who has any given asset at any time in seconds.
This is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t lose assets, thus reducing theft. But, most importantly, it’s a simple way to speed up processes so your employees aren’t spending hours each week searching for lost equipment.
6. Review and optimize monthly
The final part of a successful healthcare asset tracking strategy is reviewing your plan monthly.
This means reviewing your current strategy, assessing asset value, maintenance scheduling, and forecasting your asset budget to ensure your assets are in good working order.
This will ensure that most of your assets are operable throughout the month. If you neglect to review your asset tracking plan, you’ll have greater asset downtimes, reduced efficiencies, and lost items.
Remember, your asset management plan is only as good as the effort you put into it. While asset tracking software can help you track assets, it’s up to you to review your operations so you can make adjustments along the way.
How RedBeam helps with healthcare asset tracking
Healthcare asset tracking is an often overlooked aspect of healthcare operations.
But, with all the time spent looking for lost equipment, the expensive costs associated with asset repair and replacement, and the inefficiencies of a paper-based check-out system, it’s in every healthcare organization’s best interest to invest more time into tracking their assets.
One of the best ways to improve your asset tracking is with RedBeam.
RedBeam can help you alleviate the strain of budgets and resources by increasing asset transparency in your organization. Healthcare asset tracking enables management to work quickly and remain flexible to offer their patients the highest form of healthcare.
RedBeam’s intuitive cloud-based platform easily improves asset management lifecycles, including RFID and barcode management, smart data import functionality, automated audit tracking, roles-based access, and robust reporting.