Hospitals have unique requirements in tracking their fixed assets. Non-healthcare organizations have one or two categories of assets that require detailed management and their functional requirements are mostly predictable; not so with hospitals. Fixed assets are diverse, data requirements are complex, regulations are considerable, and the 24/7 environment leaves little time to capture idle fixed assets. Challenges on all fronts.
Healthcare assets can be grouped in 3 categories: Information Technology (IT), Bio-medical equipment and facility assets. Each has significantly different, though not entirely discrete, data requirements. Often, the management of each category has approached the problem at an operational level to tailor the solution to each area’s specific needs. IT may have a network-based tracking tool that identifies assets using their presence on the network and provides considerable detail about hardware and software configurations. These assets are tracked based on their associated network address rather than the physical location. Biomedical equipment solutions are usually driven by the need to identify and maintain the assets in certifiable operational state. Data requirements point to scheduling and recording of maintenance activities and reporting for compliance with various regulations. Facility assets address what remains; furniture, food service, janitorial, landscape, office equipment and so on. While the facility data needs are generic, the sheer number and variety of these assets make tracking them burdensome. And over time, all systems become littered with data about obsolete assets that have long since been retired.
Historically, these disparate tools, designed or modified for a specific purpose, produce inconsistent results. A worrisome by-product is different, sometime radically different databases, with little ability to pass data amongst them. Often, implementations will occur based on specific weaknesses that arise over time. For example, a Real Time Locating System (RTLS) might be layered on top of a Bio-Med Management system that does not integrate data with any other internal system including the accounting system where the same equipment has been diligently duplicated over time. But even the accounting system comes up short because it targets only capital assets, ignoring lower cost items that may be crucial for other users.
Even simple tasks like tagging or auditing assets are difficult in a hospital setting. With 24/7 operations and much of the equipment in motion or designed to be so, physically managing assets in hospitals can seem hopeless. But this lack of a sound foundation in tracking costs money – hours wasted trying to locate assets, unnecessary purchases, asset ledgers littered with long obsolete entries, inaccurate reporting, overpayments in taxes and/or insurance and wasted time duplicating efforts.
Having aided many hospital clients over the years, we have been on the front line in their efforts. No one solution will address all the complex and at times contradictory requirements hospitals need for asset tracking. What does work is a foundational system designed to provide a common identity to all assets, act as a clearinghouse for asset transactions and provide pivotal functionality not broadly available in subordinate systems. This requires a solution born of equal parts of well-considered design and architecture and proven software. Achieving this result is not easy and will take time, and often a bit of trial and error, to deploy. But the cost savings and ease with which asset issues can be identified and resolved is more than worth the effort.