Wheelchair Tracking in Hospitals With BLE Location Services

Wheelchair Tracking in Hospitals With BLE Location Services

Location services can help hospitals in a number of ways. They can immensely help with tracking equipment (i.e. wheelchair tracking). The ability to track equipment like wheelchairs can solve a lot of problems that many hospital administrators may have taken for granted. In this post, we’ll discuss how location services work and how they can be used on wheelchairs to improve patient care and clinical outcomes.

Consequences of Non-Digitized Wheelchair Tracking

Wheelchairs are a standard feature of any hospital. They have an impact on nearly every facet of your operation. From the costs associated with them to the delays that can be caused by their unavailability, wheelchairs can be a source of headache. Many of these problems seem like just an unavoidable part of the hospital experience. Let’s take a look at some of the specific pain points that lacking wheelchair management solutions can cause.

Direct impact on patient care

While some patients are in wheelchairs to make their recovery easier, many cannot safely be transported at all without the aid of one. For these patients, the ability to have a wheelchair readily available when it is needed is important. In some cases, it could be critical. Every second a member of staff spends searching for an open wheelchair takes away from the patient experience. This can negatively impact the patient’s health outcome.

Impacts operational continuity

Patients aren’t the only ones that are kept waiting when a wheelchair cannot be found. Entire healthcare workflows rely on getting patients where they need to be quickly and efficiently. Lack of wheelchair availability or the absence of adequate wheelchair tracking will create queues and delays that impact your processes and drag down the efficiency of your hospital.

Patient care & experience

Sometimes a patient isn’t using a wheelchair as part of the healthcare workflow. Often, family members will use wheelchairs so that they can spend some time with their loved one outdoors, or to help patients who cannot walk out to the car after the discharge procedure. In these cases, not having a wheelchair available does not reduce your efficiency, but it still negatively impacts the patient experience.

Shrinkage 

Because wheelchair tracking is difficult, hospitals have reported up to 25% of their wheelchair inventory goes missing each year. This is a massive expense that is the result of poorly tracked equipment. Wheelchairs are often stolen by people who can easily walk out of the building with one. Other times the wheelchairs are left abandoned in areas of the building that make them hard to find.

PAR

Periodic Automatic Replenishment can be a wonderful tool for ensuring that your stock of wheelchairs in any given department remains at the optimum level. In theory, PAR sounds simple: when the stock of an item drops below a certain minimum threshold an automatic order is placed to bring that stock up to a maximum threshold.

Even with more easily tracked items, hospitals sometimes struggle to find the right thresholds for a PAR system and wind up falling back on gut feelings to determine proper inventory levels. Wheelchairs complicate this process further because they must be able to move between departments to do their job effectively. This means that replenishing the supply in one department could mean purchasing new wheelchairs, or it could mean pulling them from another department.

Without effective wheelchair tracking, two major problems can occur:

  • Overstocking – Because wheelchairs move around the department, it’s easy for one department to fall short while another department has a surplus of wheelchairs. What’s not always easy is accurately accounting for this when it comes time to order more wheelchairs. In fact, up to 30% of your wheelchair inventory could be unaccounted for at any given time. With wheelchairs dispersed through the hospital, it is easy to underestimate the number of wheelchairs available and order more when they aren’t needed.
  • Limited Time For Patient Care – When wheelchair tracking is difficult to do, employees end up wasting a lot of precious time. A wheelchair cannot be unaccounted for until some attempt has been made to find one. Before making the decision to purchase additional wheelchairs, staff must take time out of their busy day to try and hunt enough down to replenish the stock at one location without leaving another location with a wheelchair shortage. Time spent trying to find unused wheelchairs is time that could be better spent on things that improve patient outcomes and experience.

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How Location Services Help

Rapid advances in technology continue to drive the fourth industrial revolution. Many of the technologies that are bringing new paradigms to manufacturing are also making life better for businesses of all kinds, including hospitals. Companies of all sizes and across all industries are beginning to realize that it is time to begin their digital transformation or get left behind. 

Kontakt.io provides clinical staff with available wheelchair locations, the nearest asset to seeker if staff badging is implemented, adaptive PAR level monitoring and recommendations based on current patient load. Rather than being passive tools waiting to be used, your wheelchairs can become beacons of information that help your staff perform their jobs more efficiently. Let’s take a quick look at how BLE tracking works and then examine the ways that it can be used on your wheelchairs to solve the problems discussed above.

BLE tracking

Tracking tags with Bluetooth low energy devices in them are able to triangulate their positions relative to base stations that are installed around your hospital. This allows them to provide a precise location to a software solution that then makes that location available with anyone who has access to the software. This means that BLE tracking tags do not need to be scanned by a human or a checkpoint scanner in the same way that RFID tags need to be. This continuously updated location data, and the software that it reports to, can be used to solve all of the problems mentioned above.

Automate the tracking of PAR level

One of the biggest reasons that hospitals abandon a PAR system in favor of conventional offline methods is that it is simply too difficult to keep an accurate count in order to know when stock needs to be replenished or which levels it needs to be replenished to. As staff goes about their busy day checking inventory, levels become something that gets overlooked. BLE trackers will automatically know how many wheelchairs are in a given area and alert someone on staff when that number drops below the threshold. Similarly, if the number is above the maximum threshold, staff will quickly know which departments they can grab a wheelchair from to replenish another department’s inventory.

Optimize wheelchair tracking and inventory

Another difficulty that hospitals face with PAR is understanding exactly what the minimum and maximum thresholds should be. If these numbers are wild guesses, then PAR doesn’t perform significantly better than gut feeling anyway. BLE trackers, or more specifically, the software that they enable, will be able to tell you precisely how many wheelchairs a given department uses on average. This will help not only with wheelchair tracking in general, but also with wheelchair inventory. By setting your PAR levels to the upper and lower ranges that occur during normal business operation, you’ll have a much more accurate count of how many wheelchairs are needed.

Increase patient care

We’ve already discussed how you’ll be able to quickly see which departments have extra wheelchairs, but BLE tracking takes things much further than that. Because the tags can carry small amounts of data, you can tag a chair that is in use versus one that is not. BLE location services allow for extremely efficient wheelchair tracking. Combined with the ability to find the exact location of every wheelchair in an instant, your staff will be able to find the closest available wheelchair when they are needed. This will get them back to work doing more productive things quicker and keep patient wait times to a minimum. 

Alert on wheelchairs leaving the building

Just as the wheelchair tracking software can be programmed to notify you when the inventory of wheelchairs in a given area has dropped above or below a certain threshold, it can be programmed to notify you when someone has left the building with a wheelchair. This will allow you to stop shrinkage as a result of theft and save the hospital money on needlessly replenishing wheelchair stock.

Everything mentioned so far also has the added benefit of making life easier for patients. They will wait less time to get to their healthcare destinations, be able to leave the hospital quicker after discharge, and be more mobile when their family comes to visit them.

Kontakt.io is an industry leader in BLE beacons and Enterprise IoT technologies. We develop cutting edge hardware and software solutions that are at the forefront of the industry. Our BLE tracking tags come in form factors that are perfect for tracking anything in your hospital, be it wheelchairs, employees, or your inventory of medical supplies. When those tags are combined with our software product they become an invaluable resource in increasing patient care and clinical outcomes.

We would love the opportunity to discuss with you what our location services can do for your hospital. Don’t let wheelchair tracking (or any type of equipment tracking) be an issue again! If you are ready to begin your operation’s digital transformation, please contact us today.
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Aneta Ciurkot - Photo
  • Aneta Ciurkot
  • Product Marketing & Partnership Manager

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