January 12, 2023 | 8 minute

Can you really “lose” a bed? Hospitals struggle with bed shortages but IoT solutions can help.

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Healthcare systems everywhere continue to struggle in the post-pandemic landscape and many of the issues they deal with have a common root cause — a shortage of available beds.

Part of the problem is self-inflicted, as many facilities have pivoted towards a model that focuses on outpatient treatment and fewer patients admitted for in-house care. On top of that, the consequences of budget cutbacks and shifting priorities are now becoming evident in the form of significant gaps in needs versus demand for hospital beds.

This problem has proven to be immune to quick solutions, as stakeholders must deal with the various factors behind the shortage of beds. It is becoming clear, however, that solutions based on asset tracking and digital insights into workflows are the foundation of the path forward.

Table of contents:

Causes of the bed shortage problem

It’s tempting to blame the shortage of beds on the sudden spike in patient traffic caused by the COVID pandemic, but in fact this problem had been growing for at least a decade before that. The pandemic may have put the spotlight on the problem, as it did for so many things, but the problem was already there.

Here are some of the factors that slowly combined over time to produce the acute shortage of beds we see today.

  • A shortage of general practitioners (GPs). With a declining number of general practitioners to be consulted for fairly routine matters, the trend is for more patients to go to emergency rooms instead and be admitted for problems that used to be resolved as an outpatient. More patients in emergency rooms mean more beds occupied.
  • Overall staff shortages. Healthcare systems are missing nurses and other specialists too. And those that remain are stretched thin and experience more burnout than ever before, resulting in more absences due to illness and poor motivation. These staff shortages often result in compromised staff efficiency, especially when it comes to moving patients through the system leading up to discharge. This means more patients in more beds waiting longer to be processed out.
  • Changes in facility strategy. A shift towards more outpatient care was part of a change in business strategies for many facilities in recent years. The idea was to resize to accommodate fewer patients spending fewer nights in the hospital. This meant less investment for in-patient care, including beds, leaving those facilities unprepared for a quick return to in-house care.
  • A lack of proper registration and asset management. It’s quite difficult for a bed to actually disappear but rather easy to disappear for all practical purposes through administrative neglect. Even systems built on, for example, bar-coded stickers attached to beds are useless if those stickers are not maintained or if staff does not update every movement. Anything that requires active participation from an already-busy staff is doomed to failure.

See every bed, everywhere in real time with asset hospital bed tracking

All of these factors can be overcome with easily available IoT-powered solutions that have proven themselves in numerous use cases across multiple industries.

Asset tracking is among the most straightforward, yet valuable applications of location-based technologies. It gives users the ability to quickly access a digital twin of a physical space and easily identify the location of tagged objects, even in large complex spaces like hospitals.

Bed tracking is a system that helps hospitals identify, monitor, and manage their beds. By assigning each bed its own unique identifier, hospital managers can track the availability of each bed in real-time from any location.

With real-time, room-level visibility there is no chance of overlooking the location of any bed on premises and “losing” a bed is all but impossible. In addition to location, stakeholders can also check the status of any given bed, to know if it’s occupied or not, due for maintenance or cleaning, etc.

Location-based bed tracking solutions not only prevent beds from going “missing”, but they also dramatically reduce the time spent by staff in search of free beds. When a single operational efficiency is unlocked, it often has an immediate positive effect on another.

Benefits Of Bed Tracking

Bed tracking provides numerous benefits for healthcare facilities. First and most importantly, it allows hospitals to increase their efficiency by ensuring that all beds are used as efficiently as possible. This reduces wait times for patients, improves patient satisfaction, and increases overall hospital performance. Additionally, it helps reduce the amount of time spent searching for lost or misplaced beds by providing quick access to detailed information about each individual bed.

In addition, bed tracking systems can be used to monitor how long beds are occupied and how often they are used during the day. This information helps hospital administrators make better decisions about how many beds need to be kept in stock at any given time. It also allows them to identify areas of the hospital where beds may not be utilized efficiently, so they can adjust staffing levels accordingly. Finally, bed tracking systems can even alert staff when beds need to be cleaned or serviced so that they don’t fall into disrepair over time due to neglect.

As hospitals around the world strive to optimize their bed capacity, bed tracking has become an essential tool for managing patient flow. Bed tracking allows hospitals to track the availability of beds in real-time and make decisions based on up-to-the-minute data. This means patients are processed faster with less wait time between stations.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of bed tracking in more detail:

Increased Efficiency in Allocation

Bed tracking allows managers to quickly assess the availability of beds and determine which patients should be allocated to them. This eliminates time-consuming manual processes like manually counting beds or contacting individual departments for updates on bed availability. Furthermore, by having access to this data in real-time, managers can make faster, more informed decisions about allocating beds according to the needs of the hospital or facility.

Reduced Risk of Lost Beds

Bed tracking also helps reduce the risk of lost beds due to poor record keeping. By having an accurate picture of who is occupying each bed and when they will be discharged, it becomes much easier for managers to keep track of their total number of beds and identify any discrepancies quickly. This helps reduce errors and ensures that every patient receives appropriate care while minimizing delays caused by lost beds.

Improved Compliance with Regulations

In addition, bed tracking ensures compliance with regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act). By using bed tracking software, hospitals are able to maintain secure records on who is occupying each bed and when they will be discharged without compromising patient privacy or violating any regulations. This helps minimize any potential legal issues related to incorrect record keeping or privacy violations due to unauthorized access to patient information.

More informed purchasing decisions

With accurate information about how many beds are really at a facility’s disposal, stakeholders can make more informed decisions about their real purchasing needs. When a single specialized bed can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, even small errors can quickly become expensive mistakes.

Bed tracking is an accessible solution to a common problem

Bed tracking is a powerful tool for hospitals and other healthcare facilities looking for ways to better manage their resources and improve patient care. By utilizing real-time data on the availability and status of each bed, managers are able to quickly assess the current situation and make informed decisions about how best to allocate resources according to the needs of their facility or organization.

In short, bed tracking is a powerful tool that can help hospitals maximize their efficiency while providing better care for patients. By providing real-time information about available beds and patient movement throughout the hospital, it allows staff to quickly respond to changes in order to provide optimal care and reduce wait times for patients. As such, bed tracking should be considered an essential component of any modern healthcare facility’s operations.

Bed tracking systems offer hospitals numerous benefits that go beyond simply locating missing beds quickly and easily. By utilizing this technology, hospitals can better manage their resources while improving patient safety through regular cleaning schedules and improved staffing levels based on actual data rather than guesswork or manual observation alone. If your hospital is looking for ways to increase efficiency while still providing top-notch care for its patients, then implementing a bed tracking system should definitely be part of the path forward.

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