Industries and organizations across the country are continually feeling the effects of shrinking budgets, strict regulations, and increased pressure to better manage resources. The healthcare industry is no exception. Such was the case recently when it was discovered that nearly $6 million in state-owned hospital equipment was missing from Louisiana State University (LSU) hospitals, and more than $15 million in newly-purchased equipment was not properly tracked before put into use.
In addition to poor financial accountability and wasted time searching for lost assets, poor asset management practices can also have more serious consequences. When millions of dollars in hospital equipment goes missing, not only are budgets impacted, but critical care for patients is also at stake. Wheelchairs, X-ray machines, stethoscopes, syringes, bandages, and thousands of other supplies and devices must be readily available for use.
A survey by Nursing Times found that more than one-third of nurses spend at least one hour locating equipment during an average hospital shift. Not only does this result in wasteful spending, but it’s a loss of valuable time that could be devoted to patient care.
Beyond wasted resources and potential impacts on patient outcomes, poor asset management may also result in financial or regulatory issues. According to auditors reviewing the LSU Health Care Services Division’s financial reporting, “Failure to tag and enter data into the state’s asset management system increases the risk that assets will be misappropriated or become unlocated, the financial statements will be misstated and could result in noncompliance with state laws and regulations.”
Benefits of Asset Management with Asset Tags
In addition to lowering the risk that assets will be misappropriated and assisting with regulations compliance, there are numerous benefits to using asset tags for asset management. From acquisition to disposal and all steps in between, an asset’s location, repair history, quantity, and value can be easily tracked using an asset management system with asset tags or asset labels.
Better Inventory Control
Having sufficient and properly working assets on hand is critical for the healthcare industry. It’s important to know the right equipment is ready to go when needed. However, having too much of the wrong equipment is costly and takes up inventory space for other necessary items. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations can utilize asset management for inventory control practices in order to make better informed decisions regarding physical inventory, such as when to order certain items or when to replace items.
Proper asset management also maximizes efficiency for both employees and their equipment. Think of what nurses could do with that extra hour of time per shift they spend searching for equipment. And once they locate that equipment, only to find the batteries are dead or the device is malfunctioning, more valuable time is lost. Asset tracking using barcodes to automatically collect asset data has proven to be faster, less expensive and more accurate than manual data collection processes.
Improved Maintenance Management
One way to build on efficiency in asset tracking is proper maintenance management of equipment. It does no good to locate equipment if it’s broken or not performing up to speed. Hospitals and healthcare systems can use asset management with barcodes to correctly identify assets and initiate work orders for those assets by scanning the barcode labels on the equipment using handheld barcode scanners or even mobile devices with barcode scanning apps installed.
Barcodes can also be utilized for conditions monitoring and inventory control of spare parts. Most importantly, asset management can incorporate predictive maintenance. That way hospitals can plan for critical equipment to be assessed, reducing equipment downtime.
Ease in Meeting Compliance Requirements
Financial reporting regulations impact organizations in any industry. In addition to these requirements, hospitals and healthcare organizations often face stricter regulations concerning patient privacy and care. For organizations complying with state and federal regulations, it’s faster and easier to generate accurate reports with the data automatically collected from asset management practices with barcode labels. In addition to better asset management, it helps organizations prevent financial penalties from noncompliance with regulations.
Better Patient Care
Above all, patient care is the most important function for healthcare organizations. When doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals have the right tools at the right time and have confidence that tools and devices are in working order and properly calibrated, patient health is optimized. The less time healthcare staff have to search for and assess equipment, the more time they can spend with patients.
Knowing what you have, where it’s at and what it’s worth is critical for any organization, but especially so in healthcare. Utilizing automated asset management practices gives healthcare organizations more control over assets, which impacts budgets, efficiency and ultimately patient care.