Real-time healthcare asset tracking has been on the biomedical wish-list for decades, yet the local mall contains more tracking technology than typical hospitals. What’s holding back device bloodhounds? Let’s pick up the scent of various infrared and radio frequency methods, follow them to see where tracking technology leads, and place our sights on the future of asset management.

f01a.jpg (7380 bytes)Medical care is expensive. From the highly trained people who deliver it to the sophisticated instruments that help them do their job — it takes a lot of money to run a hospital.

Then why is it that those very same high-priced devices (assets) are tracked and managed with less forethought than your average pair of $30 Old Navy khakis?

For more than a decade, automated, real-time asset tracking systems have steadily increased their penetration in both the automotive and retail industry. Despite the sense of order, accountability and quantitative data that these systems can impart to organizations, the healthcare industry has dragged its feet in adopting them.

I’d guess that there are fewer than 20 wireless, automated asset management systems in U.S. hospitals,” said Jonathan Sadock, founder and COO of Associated Resource Management Services in Salt Lake City.

So what’s the hold up? When you examine all the benefits of implementing such a system, it seems like a no-brainer for healthcare.

Automating asset tracking can help a healthcare institution establish cost control, optimize data collection and more efficiently and quickly locate equipment. A few systems can even keep track of utilization.

Very few hospital technologies offer more opportunity to improve processes than asset management. Tracking methods such as bar-coding, manual database entry, paper trails and roaming the halls locating equipment should be a part of healthcare ancient history but they’re not.

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