NHS efficiency

Simon Hemingway, Healthcare Director at The Barcode Warehouse


The NHS’s technology infrastructure has come under severe pressure in recent years, with many experts calling for increased widespread investment in new software, hardware, and health technology. Currently, around 13.5 million working hours are lost a year due to outdated, legacy IT systems and lost equipment, costing nurses and doctors time, money and ultimately having a detrimental impact on patient health.

While some NHS trusts have embarked on their digital transformation journeys, the NHS as a whole is lagging behind global peers when it comes to digitising crucial equipment, and the tracking of such assets. Asset visibility and management present healthcare institutions with an opportunity to take control of their inventory and device administration, empower clinicians, accelerate workflows, and put the necessary procedures in place to prevent equipment loss and associated downtime.

In extremely busy hospital environments, overseeing key equipment whereabouts and optimisation becomes challenging. Asset management strategies can be implemented to reduce unnecessary wasted time on locating devices and combat the cost of replacing missing items. New tracking technology is vital for multi-hospital trusts where equipment is regularly loaned out to different community organisations. Through enhanced visibility and management, IT teams can prevent the loss or theft of valuable equipment, alleviating further financial strain on an already stretched NHS.

With autumn on the horizon and experts predicting a potential surge in COVID cases and hospitalisations, hospitals must ensure they optimise healthcare professionals’ time allocation for patient care without the burden of using outdated IT systems or needing to track down misplaced equipment. And of course, the funds saved from avoiding new equipment expenditures can be reallocated to measures that benefit patient care.


Improving patient care and experience

Amid the severe NHS strain, asset management provides healthcare professionals with a key tool for effective departmental time management.  Recognising the criticality of time, using this management software can prevent nurses and doctors from wasting valuable time locating equipment, thus chanelling it more effectively intopatient care.

Asset tracking solutions from specialist providers supply the NHS with key details on each item of labelled equipment, including real-time location in searchable maps, location-based milestones, alerts for movement out of an authorised zone, and status and utilisation of mobile devices, in addition to managing the assets from one central point. Operational teams can locate devices, saving clinical staff time, but also, they can help streamline patient care by ensuring medical devices, equipment and resources are readily available for each patient when needed. This allows patients to be treated in a timely manner and ensures there are minimal delays.

Introducing this real-time location system (RTLS) technology into healthcare institutions provides hospitals with a solution to help improve patient care and tackle long wait times. There is no longer a need to wait for equipment to be available since operational teams can make data-driven decisions to ensure the correct equipment and devices are readily available depending on demand.  

As healthcare technologies continue to evolve and adapt, hospitals must keep abreast of the latest technology to help manage, locate, and prepare these assets to help tackle long wait times and improve the patient experience.


Managing dwindling hospital budgets

As hospital budgets are squeezed even further this year, healthcare professionals are looking for new ways to help ease the financial strain on the NHS. One key area is lost equipment, whether this is vital hospital apparatus, loaned equipment, or health tech and medical devices used in theatre. Medical equipment can be costly and lost or misplaced equipment is costing healthcare institutions thousands of pounds to replace.

In addition to the benefits to patient care, asset tracking has also proved to be the answer for hospitals to manage their handheld devices. The ability to digitally log and track the locations of all devices and automate the management of each technology gives a panoramic view of all devices within a hospital trust. This insight provides key decision-makers with the knowledge of where each device is, the status of the device and how long it has been in a singular location. From this, IT teams can limit the number of misplaced or lost devices by keeping track of critical equipment.

Asset tracking solutions not only reduce time spent searching for devices and equipment, but also limit the amount of budget spent on replacing lost equipment. During today’s turbulent economic climate, the visibility of all healthcare resources provides healthcare professionals with the ability to manage tight budgets without impacting patient care.


Improving staff morale

By streamlining the often time-consuming and labour-intensive tasks associated with locating and managing equipment, asset management liberates healthcare professionals from the burdens of constant equipment searches and manual inventory checks. This newfound ease in accessing vital resources empowers staff to allocate more of their precious time towards delivering compassionate patient care and medical interventions, elevating their sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction. The alleviation of the stress caused by equipment shortages or misplacements contributes to an overall positive work environment, fostering a stronger sense of camaraderie and pride among healthcare teams within NHS England. As a result, the adoption of an asset management solution not only optimises hospital operations but also cultivates an atmosphere that nurtures staff well-being and reinforces their pivotal role in the nation’s healthcare system.


The advantages of third-party management

Nurses’ and doctors’ workloads at the NHS are currently at an all-time high, so outsourcing asset management to an expert third-party supplier, allows healthcare professionals to devote more time to patient care.

Maximising time and resources is a key benefit of third-party management, allowing NHS clinical and operational teams to work closely alongside the supplier to ensure the tracking technology integrates seamlessly into the pre-existingsystems within a hospital trust. Here, hospitals can rely on the supplier for installation and management of the asset management solution, allowing them to ensure all moveable equipment within a hospital is labelled, tracked and logged on the new system.

Asset management will continue to become a vital solution for the NHS in the next few years. The solution provides a struggling NHS with the tools to maximise clinician time and improve patient safety and experience by offering increased visibility of important assets. With Autumn this year set to bring a further strain on the NHS with winter colds and COVID outbreaks, hospitals must act quickly to ensure clinical time is spent on patients and not spent manually managing and locating lost equipment.