Is a shortage of beds in your hospital affecting patient care? Are your clinical and engineering staff spending far too much time looking for beds?
Due to the physical size of most hospitals it is often difficult to establish exactly where beds are. Tracking the location of beds, patient trolleys and cots with RFID technology is proven to increase availability, efficiency and utilisation. It cuts down time spent by staff looking for a specific bed. However, there are often barriers to installing new technology, not least due to budget constraints and limited resources to implement a solution.
So if you still need persuading, here are the top 10 reasons why you should track your hospital beds (and, of course, patient trolleys and cots):
1. Improve utilisation
With acute bed shortages in most NHS Trusts, making maximum use of existing beds has to be a key priority. RFID tracking technology can support any bed management system as it provides a level of visibility which is impossible to achieve with any manual systems. It can help identify bottlenecks, e.g. where beds have been waiting too long for repairs or cleaning and are therefore unavailable.
2. Quickly find beds for maintenance and repair
Clinical engineers often walk miles and spend hours looking for equipment which is due to be serviced or repaired. Being able to locate beds easily means more time is available to concentrate on core tasks. This in turn improves the up-time of beds, increases availability and often avoids the need to hire in additional beds to cope with demand, which in turn helps reduce costs.
3. Identify and report faulty beds
RFID tracking enables the unique identification and quick location of specific beds. So if any bed is reported as faulty it’s much easier to identify and replace it to avoid any failure whilst it’s in use. As additional data including the age of the bed can be captured, an RFID system can also support a rolling replacement programme and help ensure that the correct beds are replaced when they come to the end of their useful lives. Logging incidents against each asset can help identify inappropriate and outdated beds which might pose a risk to vulnerable patients.
4. Identify those specialist beds
Looking for a specialist bed on a large hospital site can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. With often only a handful of bariatric, ultra-low or spinal beds available, in some situations patients have to temporarily be put into less suitable beds, which can tie up staff resources unnecessarily or negatively affect patient comfort or even safety. For example, if a standard bed has to be used instead of an ultra-low bed, 24/7 supervision of the patient is required, wasting valuable nursing or HCA time. If the patient is not mobile it may also mean unnecessary hoisting which is both inconvenient and potentially damaging for the patient as well as time consuming for nursing staff. Using the wrong bed can also lead to equipment damage, for example where a bariatric patient is placed in a normal bed which is not designed to support their weight.
5. Manage hired beds
Where beds are hired in, it is surprisingly common for hospitals to ‘mislay’ hired beds, which can lead to large bills from the rental company. RFID tracking can help identify and locate those which are no longer needed to avoid any late return fees or unnecessary hire charges. Tracking hired beds can also ensure that the number of beds you are paying for is actually on site, which – with the help of RFID – a number of trusts have found out is not necessarily the case.
6. Make sure your contractors are doing a good job
If you use a service contractor to look after your beds for cleaning or maintenance, RFID tracking can help monitor performance to ensure repair times are within a specified time scale or cleaning processes are carried out thoroughly. One hospital in England using RFID found that beds only spent an average 1.5 minutes in the area where they are being cleaned, a process that should take 7 minutes to complete.
7. Improve infection control
In case of an infection outbreak, being able to see where a particular bed has been is useful for the infection control team, so it can be quickly isolated and decontaminated before further spread occurs. Being able to identify contaminated beds without having to touch them, can present another benefit for infection control.
8. Reduce damages
An RFID system provides a solid audit trail of device locations and can deliver great support for incident reporting. It captured where a device has last been used and therefore highlights where damage occurred. This helps with cross charging repair costs and identifying training needs. A Trust in the South East of England was suffering regular damage to the heads of bladder scanners, costing £1,600 each. They successfully used RFID to identify in which areas damage had occurred and training was put in place to minimise future damage.
9. Ensure compliance
As a medical device, beds fall under the MHRA recommendation which means that clinical engineering teams need to ensure there are systems in place to record the current whereabouts of each bed. Manual systems can be cumbersome to maintain and often lack accuracy due to errors or omissions, whilst RFID tracking is more accurate and involves far less effort. Accurate records also help make sure that beds are maintained correctly, so requirements from the Health & Safety Executive are satisfied.
RFID simplifies and speeds up the process of auditing and allows for more frequent inventory checks. Beds in areas where patients are being treated, can also be checked as RFID readers can often look behind curtains and through doors.
10. Collect quality data to support strategic decision making
Last but not least, the data gathered by tracking beds supports cost-effective and evidence-based strategic decisions. This can include deciding whether existing assets should be maintained or retired based on their maintenance history. Good quality utilisation data can also help with forecasting expected demands to support a convincing case for replacement funding or help prioritise actions such as repairs to ensure sufficient suitable beds are available for patient care.