Hospital Bed Management: 7 Benefits of BLE-Based Solutions

February 25, 2020

At first glance, hospital bed tracking sounds like a simple, straightforward task. But if you operate a large medical center or a chain of hospitals, you likely know that there is more to bed tracking than meets the eye. Poor bed visibility, deferred bed maintenance, and a lack of centralized information can all make it difficult to keep track of available beds. Below is a look at some of the top bed-related challenges facing today's hospitals and the specific ways a real-time hospital bed management solution can prime your hospital for success.

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What are some key challenges facing hospitals regarding bed management?

The path to improved hospital bed management begins with an understanding of the barriers facing today's hospitals. Here is a look at some of the key challenge that negatively impact a hospital's HCAHPS rating and revenue:

1) Bottlenecks in patient flow

"A bottleneck is the part of the patient care journey that cannot meet the demand for services efficiently. At this point, services are delayed and patient care must wait." - Patrice Spath, RHIT, Adjunct Professor University of Alabama at Birmingham
Bottlenecks in patient flow top the list of barriers facing hospitals because they directly impact the patient experience and hospital profitability. They occur when demand for beds or a particular hospital service exceeds the hospital's available resources. If they are not addressed, bottlenecks can negatively impact the entire patient care experience.

2) Poor bed visibility

Not being able to accurately know how many beds are available tremendously affects hospital bed management. Hospitals that lack real-time visibility of available beds are left to use outdated information to guess how many beds are available in each department. Underestimating that number can cause patients to wait as open beds remain unoccupied. And overestimating the number of available beds can lead to frustration as patients are transported to beds that are already filled.

3) Defective beds

No piece of hospital equipment is immune to problems. But when a hospital bed breaks down, the consequences are especially costly because a patient room remains unoccupied until the bed is repaired or replaced. Common reasons for defects include worn parts, operational errors, and lapses in preventive maintenance.

4) Canceled surgeries

"Cancelling operations is not a decision we ever take lightly...We cannot operate on patients if we have nowhere to care for them. We cancelled these cancer operations predominantly due to the lack of a bed in intensive care." - John Adler, Leicester NHS Trust Chief Executive
Canceling surgeries due to a lack of functional beds causes stress and frustration during a time that is already difficult for patients. The problem is becoming so pronounced that some patients have had their surgeries canceled twice due to bed shortages and visibility issues. In many cases, the patients take drugs and fast to prepare for surgery, only to be told at the last minute that there are actually no beds available.

5) Missing and stolen beds

In 2019, Florida VA Hospitals reported nearly $5 million in missing medical equipment. The list of missing and stolen items included a wide range of items ranging from computers to a $25,000 eye scanner. With new FDA-approved electric hospital beds costing over $10,000 and most professionally refurbished hospital beds costing over $2,000, hospitals cannot afford to lose beds to theft or misplacement.

6) Sluggish cash flow

Poor patient flow, canceled surgeries, and a lack of preventive maintenance combine to create a recipe for sluggish cash flow for hospitals. And when hospitals fail to meet revenue goals, they are unable to expand services or invest in new technology. A hospital is then unable to maintain its competitive edge. 

What are the top benefits of a real-time bed management solution in hospital?

Addressing the challenges above is no longer an option for hospital administrators - it is a must. A growing number of hospitals are turning to real-time bed management solutions such as Simon AI to expedite their searches for available beds and keep track of the bed's maintenance history.  Here are some of the top advantages a real-time bed management solution can offer.

1) Optimize patient flow

Real-time access to bed information helps to minimize delays and bottlenecks. Thom Mayer, M.D. and Executive Vice President of Envision Physician Services, lists the "Use of Technology to Enhance Care" as one of the top five strategies to improve patient flow

2) Quickly identify a bed's location

By automating bed visibility, clinical staff are no longer forced to depend on outdated information or error-prone manual notes. They can quickly find out if a specific bed is located within the ward, the hospital's post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), or within a patient room. Additionally, centralized bed authorities can devote more time to communicating with units about the needs of incoming patients because they no longer have to physically visit locations within a hospital to confirm bed availability.   

3) Fewer canceled surgeries

Reducing the number of canceled surgeries by improving bed tracking and visibility can save a large hospital millions of dollars. For example, the number of delayed and canceled surgeries at The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) was estimated to be 7,500 annually, resulting in a estimated loss of $5.9 million. By improving bed management, many of these dollars are funneled back into the hospital budget. 

4) Streamlined bed maintenance

Preventive maintenance should be performed at least annually by a certified biomedical engineer or technician. In many cases, maintenance is performed offsite or within a specific location within a hospital. Simon AI tracks the removal of beds for preventive maintenance service. Additionally, the platform's notification engine can alert staff if a bed has not been removed for servicing within the recommended time frame.

5) Fewer missing or stolen beds

Real-time bed management solutions like Simon AI help users track down missing beds by enabling them to quickly find the last location of any tagged hospital bed. Users can also view the bed's entire location history to help determine who may have moved the bed. Finally, users help prevent theft by setting notifications to alert staff when a bed is being moved from a designated zone or moved out of the hospital.

6) Improved clinical staff efficiency

"Quickly assigning patients to beds is critical to both the patients' recovery and the financial health of hospitals. Large hospitals typically employ teams of 50 or more bed managers who spend the bulk of their day making calls and sending faxes to various departments vying for their share of the beds available." - Minoo Javanmardian and Aditya Lingampally, Harvard Business Review 
Introducing Simon AI greatly minimizes the amount of staffing time spent on identifying available beds. This enables clinical staff to spend more time caring for patients and less time searching for available beds. The end result is greater efficiency and a reduction in staffing expenditures.

7) A superior patient experience

An improved patient experience is, by far, the most important benefit of a real-time bed management solution. By improving patient flow, reducing the number of canceled surgeries, and minimizing wait times for beds, patients are able to complete their treatment faster and with a higher level of satisfaction.
Learn how the Internet of Things is solving common and complex problems for healthcare providers>

How does a BLE-based bed management solution work?

A BLE-based management solution provides users with real-time information on a bed's location. The solution is user-friendly and requires little in the way of equipment. The short list of requirements include a Simon AI subscription, Bluetooth LE devices, and Bluetooth LE Gateways. Compatible 3rd party devices and WiFi network infrastructures will also suffice.
Implementation is also straightforward with users simply attaching a Bluetooth tag to every bed in the hospital. And because Simon AI is hardware agnostic and compatible with a variety of 3rd party applications.The process can be summarized in four simple steps:

  • Step One: Prepare. Using a computer terminal, prepare a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) identification tag for every hospital bed. 
  • Step Two: Tag. Securely attach the BLE tag to each bed. 
  • Step Three: Place. Place the bed in the relevant department within your hospital.
  • Step Four: Locate. Use the Simon search bar to type a bed's identification number to locate it and retrieve real-time data. 

Once you have implemented Simon AI, you can take your bed management to the next level by retrieving and analyzing data about your beds. For example, you can pinpoint locations where delays are most likely to occur and adjust your staffing and procedures accordingly. Additionally, you can identify locations and patterns to trigger automated actions. For example, you can schedule an email alert if 365 days passes without a bed being removed from the ward for servicing.
Another key function of Simon AI is its powerful analytics. Simon AI enables users to easily review collected bed data and identify bed-related inefficiencies. The end result is a boost in productivity and efficiency.

What is the single best way to improve your hospital bed management?

As outlined above, a real-time management solution such as Simon AI can help you overcome some of the greatest challenges facing today's hospitals. The single best step to improving your bed management is to schedule a discovery call with a specialist. During your complimentary discovery call, you will learn how's solutions can help you achieve the following at your hospital:

  • Increased bed visibility
  • Improved predictive maintenance
  • Enhanced patient safety 
  • Superior management of bed inventory
Schedule a demo now

Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

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    [Updated for 2020]
    [Updated for 2020]