Since their widespread availability, healthcare facilities have found it challenging to balance their mission to provide patient care and their routine tasks. Issues in supply chain management, inventory control, and recalled or expired item identification all take up plenty of time that hospital staff could otherwise spend on other patients waiting for their turn. Moreover, a substantial increase in traffic caused by unexpected events like the recent COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates this struggle to provide quality and sustainable care. However, by leveraging RFID technology, hospices now have an elegant solution to alleviate the problem and balance out the equation.
Implementing RFID in healthcare inventory management
Improving inventory with RFID requires three key components:
- RFID tags
- RFID reader-enabled storage containers like smart shelves or cabinets
- A software solution that bridges the two and makes full use of their data and capabilities
With that in place, medical supplies or products can be tagged upon arrival at healthcare facilities and registered into the inventory management system. Upon storage into the smart containers, the RFID readers scan the tags of each item for every action taken, whether it is being stored or removed, and update in real-time.
This system allows for a bird’s eye view of every asset within the facility and makes it simple to locate and track down valuable medical tools instantly. For example, suppose a staff member takes a product from a smart shelf on one floor and returns it unused in a container on another floor. In that case, the inventory system and other employees can know exactly where that item is now located. Moreover, if another facility needs a device or product, their location can be quickly identified and be accessible for transport to where they are needed.
On top of constant, real-time visibility, an RFID inventory system also collects data and stores other important information, such as a medical equipment’s periodic maintenance schedule or a product’s current inventory count or expiry date. Equipped with this up-to-date knowledge, it becomes much easier for hospices to stay on top of their responsibilities of equipment maintenance, resupplying, and more.
How RFID helps save big money
Most healthcare institutions are businesses first and foremost, and they must bill their patients for the services they provide. However, during times when there is a rush to provide urgent patient care, some products and supplies may not be immediately charged to a patient’s account. These oversights tend to occur daily, which directly impacts the hospice’s bottom line. A hospice’s RFID asset tracking system in Singapore can be further customised to address this problem in one of many ways. One such solution is to include the tracking capabilities to patients once they are officially admitted. Doing so offers many benefits in improving the medical care they receive, along with the potential of charging them instantly for the products, equipment, and other services that are utilised.
Another issue that affects hospital profits is recalled or expired items. If not returned to their respective vendors on time, hospices could lose hundreds of thousands per year in expired items. At worst, they could be used accidentally on patients, threatening their safety and incurring liabilities. An RFID inventory system prevents these from happening by keeping track of expiration dates of applicable medical supplies, which staff should ideally record as soon as the items reach the facility. This improvement makes it far less likely for staff to use medical products way past their expiration date and facilitates their return process.
RFID provides the edge to stay competitive
Although healthcare is becoming increasingly automated and connected, patient expectations are also growing more demanding while margins continue to tighten. RFID and its solutions give healthcare facilities the edge they need to remain competitive in this everchanging industry.
According to a recent survey in 2019, nearly half of hospitals still used manual processes for their supply chain management. Around 97 per cent of respondents believed supply chain analytics could help reduce costs, but only 13 per cent put top priority on their supply chain management.
In summary, with the introduction of RFID and related technologies and solutions, hospices could benefit from the following:
- Free up hospital staff’s time to tend to patient care
- Significantly improve patient safety
- Monitor expired items and facilitate recouping charges
- Eliminate stock shortages
- Order the right inventory at the right quantity in a timely manner
- Track chain of custody for blood products and other pharmaceuticals
Equipping an entire healthcare facility with RFID-enabled technologies will undoubtedly prove challenging given that departments are often siloed, typically for a good reason. For instance, supplies used in the operating room significantly differ from those in the laboratories. With an RFID system in place, it makes it easier for hospice management to resolve their supply chain inefficiencies hospital-wide or, at the very least, one department at a time.