Comment: Asset Tracking is not just for Christmas, Easter or Year End

Karen Conneely of Real Asset Management explains how mobile asset tracking apps will be key to retaining control over healthcare assets

In this article, Karen Conneely of Real Asset Management (RAM), explains how, in today’s highly-mobile world, enabling individuals to undertake a process of continual routine asset tracking via mobile apps is going to be key to retaining visibility and control over them as they flow in and out of healthcare organisations

Without a way of easily and routinely gaining an up-to-date view of asset location, the risk of loss and mismanagement is significant

Today’s society is mobile in so many ways. Mobile phones dominate the way we communicate, and mobile commerce now outstrips revenue from other channels. While organisations are increasingly deploying strategies to support the mobile-enabled workforce, few have implemented effective policies to control and track the increasingly-mobile asset base – an asset base that now moves not only within an organisation, but increasingly outside its traditional physical boundaries.

Keeping track of assets used to be a relatively-straightforward – albeit a boring and grudgingly-undertaken – process. Someone in IT, estates, finance or EBME departments would perform a physical audit – typically using a barcode reader – perhaps once a year to provide an up-to-date view on asset status and location. This enabled finance to update the balance sheet and other departmental management teams to have a better understanding of asset damage or loss.

Times have changed, though, and radically! In today’s highly-mobile society, CCGs and trusts are managing assets on behalf of others or allocating expensive assets to individuals for definite or indefinite periods of time. Organisations need to change the way the asset base is considered and managed.

Imposing control

Assets can be permanently on the move within the NHS. Trusts or GP surgeries could be providing 24-hour blood pressure monitoring equipment, beds in each hospital move from ward to ward, and equipment is loaned out, such as walking frames or crutches.

NHS hospitals, trusts and GPs are operating a far-more-complex, fluid and changing asset base – and the traditional, once-a-year approach to tracking those assets is simply not good enough

As the NHS increases its focus on delivering more care in the home to cut down on hospital admissions, how are trusts and GP surgeries planning to track the increasing amount of equipment provided to individuals at home? How do they ensure equipment is appropriate for the individual to whom it’s been provided, check for maintenance requirements, or manage returns when the equipment is no longer required and review whether patients still require the item? Without a way of easily and routinely gaining an up-to-date view of asset location, the risk of loss and mismanagement is significant.

Routine Audit

So how can an organisation make the asset audit a routine and simple aspect of day-to-day activity? With the latest generation of mobile apps, organisations have the chance to devolve responsibility for managing and auditing the asset estate away from IT and finance and towards operational areas. The model is compelling: there is no additional hardware investment and the low-cost software can be downloaded from the Apple store or Android and Windows Market place, and works on most smartphone devices. Furthermore, the training requirements are minimal since most people know how to use a smart phone.

Armed with the mobile asset management app, staff can undertake the physical audits using the camera on the smart phone to scan barcodes – in the same way the laser scanner on a PDA has been used in the past. The difference is that with ubiquitous smart phone use, an organisation can move away from dedicated equipment and dedicated audit individuals to devolving responsibility more broadly across the organisation. The one-off or annual audit can be replaced by routine, even daily, activity undertaken by those directly interacting with the assets.

Real-time information

By enabling diverse individuals to utilise the new generation of app-based asset tracking solutions, organisations can gain real-time visibility of asset location, value and status

Simple, immediate access to up-to-date asset information transforms the way organisations can utilise and control a mobile asset base. For example, within the NHS, equipment will be scanned as it leaves and returns to the hospital or GP surgery. Meanwhile the person faced with a malfunctioning piece of equipment can use the app to log on to the asset tracking software and gain all the information regarding the asset’s history and maintenance status immediately, with none of the delay associated with returning to an office in another part of the building. Also, as part of the support process, the interaction with that asset will automatically update the asset register, ensuring its latest location is also accurate.

Conclusion

NHS hospitals, trusts and GPs are operating a far-more-complex, fluid and changing asset base – and the traditional, once-a-year approach to tracking those assets is simply not good enough. Waiting for Christmas or year end to undertake a one-off audit is not going to work in this mobile environment.

By enabling diverse individuals to utilise the new generation of app-based asset tracking solutions, organisations can gain real-time visibility of asset location, value and status. With this information, it is the asset owners and budget holders that are now empowered to make the critical asset management decisions, ensuring essential control is imposed over this continually-changing yet increasingly-valuable property.

Companies