Efficient stocktaking and localisation of medical material
Much medical material is stored in hospitals. This material can include all kinds of things: medical appliances, instruments and so-called consumables (such as catheters, bandages, …). It is of the utmost importance for patients' health that the hospital staff know exactly where and in what state the material can be found, that it is stored in the correct environment and, for example, that the shelf life is not exceeded.
De Standaard and VTM Nieuws recently reported that the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products had identified several deficiencies and risks across 161 hospitals. These mainly concerned the condition of the material (sterile or not), whether the utilised material held a CE quality label and whether or not the material was correctly stored. It is apparently quite common to find material in an operating theatre that either does not belong there, is not sterile or whose shelf life has expired.
How can this be resolved?
It is crucial for all medical apparatus, instruments and consumables to be stored efficiently and for an inventory to be made. Manual inventories are extremely time consuming and there is real risk of mistakes. Using technology, it is very easy to generate a summary of all medical material and to track its progress. This so-called “asset management”, in which the assets are the range of medical material, is carried out in three phases:
1. Creation of assets
Assets are typically identified with a number, but other information can also be used: serial number, inspection period, status, etc. If the asset is not numbered, you can allocate your own unique number. You can create assets using a web application, on a mobile device, or by importing them from another existing system. The unique asset number appears on a pre-printed label in a normal readable format, as a barcode or as an RFID tag (Radio Frequency IDentification).
2. Make an inventory
All assets are localised by a mobile device. After scanning the location where they are stored, you must scan all the assets present. The device will then show the differences compared to the previous inventory exercise (missing or additional assets). This activity can be carried out both online or offline.
With the mobile device you can also register the relocation of assets, so that everything is kept up-to-date.
A modern asset management tool allows the location of all assets to be consulted, as well as the date of the last time an inventory was made or an asset was relocated, and the status and history of each individual asset. Search criteria can be based on a building, room, category, item, status etc. You can also export the data to other systems, e.g. allowing them to be processed in accounting software.
All assets, their location and condition is recorded in a database. This database is linked to an ERP system. Assets are localised using barcodes, RFID or active tags. The fact that stock control is no longer carried out by hand means you save time, reduce error and avoid running out of stock and ordering material unnecessarily.
Once an asset is to leave a particular zone, it is up to you to inform the database. This can be done manually, by scanning the item, or automatically with the use of antennae or other readers, which directly update the database with the asset situation. In this way, it is possible to trace which assets are where and in what condition, both automatically and in real time. So in specific terms, this technology allows you to establish exactly what is where for each operating theatre using barcodes, RFID or active tags. This means that the chances of medical material being in the wrong place are reduced considerably.
01 December 2017
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