East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHUFT), one of the largest hospital trusts in England, has implemented RFID tracking of medical assets which has considerably reduced the time spent by clinical and engineering staff looking for devices, improved utilisation levels of equipment and increased patient safety.
In 2014, a newly appointed medical physics management team inherited multiple challenges including managing a large fleet of medical devices across the three sites, shrinking budgets, increasing patient numbers and the need to improve an inadequate CQC rating.
The Trust chose to invest in the RFID Discovery system and simultaneously establish medical equipment libraries at the three main hospitals. To date, across the Trust approximately 5,000 medical devices including 1,000 beds under the management of the medical equipment libraries have been fitted with an active RFID tag.
How does it work?
Medical devices are fitted with an active RFID tag which transmits a unique ID at regular intervals. To read the tags, a number of networked readers have been strategically placed at various locations across each hospital site. The clinical engineering team also uses mobile handheld readers to ensure complete coverage of the hospitals so that location information is updated on a regular basis.
RFiD Discovery has been fully integrated with East Kent’s F2 asset management system from Infohealth to identify, which devices require action and to support risk management and compliance.
“RFID tagging highlighted an excess of 98 infusion pumps, costing around £150,000. These have now been removed from circulation.”
Andy Barrow, Head of Electronics, Medical Engineering and Radiology Maintenance
Before the introduction of RFID Discovery, infusion pumps costing £1,500 each were regularly in short supply and staff were frequently requesting more pumps to be purchased. However, the device management data provided by the new system, showed that across the three sites there was an excess of 98 pumps. This surplus stock has now been temporarily removed from circulation and will be available to meet the growing demand, which means the Trust will not need to purchase infusion pumps for a considerable amount of time.
Using RFID Discovery, the Trust has defined stock levels for key areas such as the dedicated buffer store in the A&E department. When stock levels exceed or drop below the specified thresholds, the system dashboard notifies the medical engineering team so corrective action can be taken and patient care delays avoided. Andy says: “This is a really useful feature for ensuring we have the right equipment in the right place at the right time.”
Three years ago, the CQC found a lot of issues surrounding the availability of suitable medical devices at EKHUFT: A number of infusion pumps were not clean and wards had to ‘beg, borrow and steal’ to ensure they could get hold of the required equipment. Now with RFID supporting the equipment libraries, pumps are clean, in service and working. Improvements were evident in the latest CQC report which stated:
"Our observations and discussions with staff indicated that access to equipment was good. The introduction of an equipment library (including the use of RFID tags) has been of benefit.” CQC Quality Report for East Kent Hospitals, November 2015
Impoved Device Utilisation
Thanks to RFID tracking, bladder scanners are now shared between wards. Costing £6,000 each and only used for minutes at a time, this device is ideal for being managed by the library. ECG machines have also come under the management of the libraries. Andy comments: “With a cost of £5,500 each, it’s good to know how many ECG machines were actually needed when we had to replace old stock. We have also been able to reduce on-going maintenance as there are fewer to service.”
EKHUFT have designed their own reports based on data from RFiD Discovery and their asset management database. Reports include those for managing high risk devices such as defibrillators, showing which devices are due for service soon, which are overdue and where were they were last seen by the system. This makes it much easier for technicians to prioritise workloads and locate equipment. Andy adds: “RFiD Discovery has given us an unprecedented level of information and evidence surrounding our medical device management. It helps us demonstrate that we are actively managing devices and not just reacting to situations.”
Providing full Audit Trails
The system has also proved a great support for incident reporting, e.g. to capture if a device has been used in the wrong way, or damaged during use. Andy explains: “The head of a bladder scanner costs £1,600 and they often get broken. Now there is an audit trail showing where they were last used and therefore where they were damaged. This helps with cross charging repair costs to the correct area and identifying training needs to avoid future damage.”
GS1 Asset Labelling
In addition to using active RFID the trust is also labelling all their medical devices with GS1 compliant asset labels incorporating passive RFID technology. Clinical Engineering staff use a specifically designed RFID trolley which performs equipment searches as it is pushed around the hospital. With a read range of typically up to eleven metres it records the date, time and location where a passive tag has been detected. Data is then sent to the same central database used for devices tracked with active RFID tags. In addition, handheld scanners are to pinpoint a specific item on a ward or in another location.
Improved inventory management
The implementation of passive RFID will enable the trust to accurately and efficiently audit all medical devices. With all items tagged, EKHUFT will be able to carry out a full equipment audit in a matter of days, a process that would usually take many weeks or even months.
"RFiD Discovery has given us an unprecedented level of information and evidence surrounding our medical device management."