5 Ways RTLS Asset Tracking Supports Biomedical Technicians
Real-time location systems (RTLS) provide an easy, comprehensive, and instantaneous tracking solution for mobile medical devices, such as IV pumps, defibrillators, and ultrasound carts. This explains why inventory and asset tracking represent the largest segment of the healthcare RTLS market, which is expected to reach $3.9 billion by 2025.
Understandably, hospital decision-makers often seek information about the financial benefits of integrating RTLS into an inventory management strategy. Indeed, RTLS tracking can reduce the total cost of device ownership, increase utilization rates, and support cost-effective inventory decisions. All these factors increase ROI on capital equipment investments and on costs associated with the RTLS itself.
However, following the money isn’t the only way to evaluate the benefits of RTLS implementation. These systems also provide critical support to biomedical equipment technicians, who are the backbone of a robust clinical engineering department.
BMETs Impact Equipment Budgets and Care Delivery
Biomed techs deal with biomedical devices all day, every day. Their work affects the soft and hard costs associated with medical equipment. And the efforts of hard-working BMETs also contribute to risk management, care quality, patient experience, and clinical outcomes–-the primary goals of value-based care.
This post highlights five ways leveraging an RTLS optimizes the impact BMETs make on facility operations and healthcare delivery. First, here's a short explanation of the basic principles behind RTLS technology.
The Basics of RTLS Technology
RTLS medical asset tracking involves wireless communication between a mobile ID tag (attached to the medical device) and a fixed reader. Depending on the system, the tag either transmits its unique ID information to a fixed receiver or responds to an interrogation signal sent by a fixed transmitter with ID info. Some systems employ a combination of both these options.
Multiple fixed readers are stationed at various points within a confined location, such as a hospital building, forming a grid that acts as a sensory network. The system software uses a locating algorithm to continuously interpret the distance between the ID tag and the known location of the readers to identify the tag's location in real-time. An RTLS management hub provides access to tracking info, analytics, and other useful features.
The most common technology used in RTLS for healthcare is radio frequency identification (RFID). RFID systems use electromagnetic radio waves to send wireless signals between the ID tag and the sensory network. Other types of wireless signals used in RTLS include Wi-Fi, WLAN, Bluetooth, and pulses of infrared light.
5 RTLS Benefits for Biomed Equipment Technicians
1. Streamlining workloads
In a study evaluating the workloads of Biomed techs conducted at a 365-bed hospital in Utah, participating technicians reported spending 13.67 "non-productive" hours per month on inventory maintenance. The study demonstrates how frequently BMETs take time away from "productive" duties, such as preventive maintenance (PM) and repairs, to complete rudimentary tasks, including searching for mobile biomedical equipment.
With RTLS, BMETs can locate devices in a matter of seconds, often right down to the specific room or even the exact location within a storage unit. Besides increasing the time available for safety and compliance-related duties, an RTLS also helps maximize the efficiency of smaller BMET staff pools, which are becoming more ubiquitous due to the industry-wide shortage of biomedical technicians.
2. Automated alerts
Most RTLS software includes a rules-based feature that HTM can configure to send notifications, reminders, and alerts based on tracking data and device history.
Examples of RTLS alerts include:
- Battery life
- PM reminders
- Missing devices
- Low equipment inventory
- Cleaning requirements
- Device damage or failure
Alerts benefit BMETs by preventing avoidable delays in device servicing, speeding up time to repair, and identifying usage or inventory issues that can cause unnecessary downtime or interfere with patient care.
3. Work order management
Individual ID tags that are equipped with request buttons allow clinicians and other staff members to initiate device service in seconds without interrupting their workflow. This eliminates the need for the technician to spend time manually opening a work order. And the Biomed tech or clinical staff can use the button to confirm completion of the service, streamlining the entire work order cycle.
4. Regulatory compliance
To improve biomedical device safety, the Joint Commission requires hospitals to maintain 100% PM completion for biomedical devices. Biomed techs carry the bulk of the responsibility for compliance with this standard. Location tracking ensures BMETs can find machines in need of PM. The RTLS automated alerts help BMETs stay on top of maintenance schedules for diverse types of equipment across thousands of individual devices.
5. Recall management
Recall management directly impacts patient safety, making it a top priority for biomedical technicians. Fast asset location lets BMETs respond to recalls quickly through remediation or device removal, minimizing the chance that an affected device will malfunction during use on the floor.
Bring BMET Benefits into RTLS Conversations
Clinical asset managers should consider the benefits to Biomed techs when researching RTLS options. The work done by BMETs supports multiple hospital departments, including quality, clinical, supply chain, and finance. Don't hesitate to discuss the connection between BMETs and RTLS asset tracking with other members of the decision-making team and during conversations with RTLS vendors.
Want to learn more about the important role of biomed techs and how the impending biomed tech shortage will impact hospitals across the country? Read our latest post here.