How Asset Tracking Reduces Waste in Healthcare

What is your hospital doing to reduce waste?

Excessive waste is bad for the planet – and bad for your bottom line.

According to Fierce Healthcare, hospitals and healthcare organizations spend billions of dollars annually purchasing new medical equipment to replace lost or stolen equipment. Hospitals are also a major source of pollution. According to Health Affairs, if hospitals were a country, they would be the fourth largest cause of pollution

Hospitals in the United States contribute a huge amount of waste and pollution to global totals. Worldwide, hospitals generate an average of 0.5 kilograms of waste per bed, per day; U.S. hospitals typically generate much more than that, as our hospitals use significantly more electronic and single-use equipment than hospitals in developing countries.

Patient and provider safety, of course, is paramount. But the health and well-being of our shared planet matters too. Proactively and responsibly reducing healthcare waste is one way to #InvestInOurPlanet for Earth Day 2023 and beyond. 

A real-time asset locating system can help your hospital and healthcare system reduce waste. Here’s how: 

1. Improved inventory management decreases the need for surplus materials

Hospitals typically overstock to ensure that patients and providers have access to necessary supplies when needed. According to Hospital and Healthcare Management, the average hospital overstocks by as much as 30%, even though overstocking on IV infusion pumps alone can cost $150,000 or more annually. 

Asset tracking allows hospitals to efficiently use the equipment it has on hand. With a real-time locating system, hospital staff can almost instantaneously identify the location of unused infusion pumps. There’s no need to stockpile pumps because staff can quickly find and use existing equipment.

Hospitals that accurately track their assets do not have to purchase extra supplies “just in case.”  

2. Loss and theft prevention eliminates the need to replace missing supplies

In 2023, several hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical equipment – including an electrocardiogram machine and mobile computers – were stolen from Prisma Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. (The hospital, of course, had to purchase additional equipment to replace the missing merchandise.) 

Sadly, this case is not unique. Between 2003 and 2017, former hospital employees allegedly stole ophthalmoscopes, otoscopes, and other medical devices from Beaumont Health, Michigan’s largest health system. And a 2015 investigation found that nearly $12 million dollars of equipment, including heart monitors, mammography machines, and infant incubators, has gone missing from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California. 

At least some of the missing equipment likely went straight into the garbage. When patients are discharged from the hospital, medical equipment – including expensive telemetry units – is often unwittingly tossed in the trash or mistakenly sent to the laundry room. 

An asset tracking system that alerts staff when a tagged piece of equipment enters the soiled linen or trash room can help hospitals “rescue” equipment that would otherwise end up in the garbage. 

3. Regular maintenance and repairs extend equipment lifespan

Appropriate maintenance preserves the functional lifespan of medical equipment. It’s typically much more cost-efficient – and eco-friendly – to prevent machine breakdowns and need-it-now purchases meant to replace equipment that’s failed.

IV infusion pumps, MRI machines, and critical life support equipment require regular maintenance and certification. According to Healthcare Finance, performing annual certification and maintenance in-house can help hospitals lower costs and decrease the need for backup devices. In some cases, it may be cost-effective to hire certified technicians to do the work.

An asset tracking system can help hospitals proactively schedule and track maintenance and repairs. The SwipeSense Asset Tracking system has helped health systems achieve 100% preventative maintenance and 100% recall compliance. 

4. Optimizing equipment utilization allows healthcare organizations to minimize purchases

Asset tracking systems allow health system leaders to track supply usage patterns and identify inefficiencies. This information can help them make informed decisions about when to replace, retire, or re-use assets.

Increasingly, health systems are learning that it’s possible to safely reprocess many non-invasive “single-used” medical devices, including blood pressure and tourniquet cuffs, patient fall alarms, EKG leads and cables, pulse oximeter sensors, and sequential compression devices. According to the Association of Medical Device Reprocessors (AMDR), 20,328,087 pounds of medical waste were diverted in 2021 because of the use of reprocessed devices. 

At present, few hospitals use a real-time locating system to track assets. Installing an asset tracking system can help you effectively utilize the resources you have and minimize waste.