A case of the disappearing beds

Mar 2, 2022

The issue of bed shortages is constantly reported, widely known and all too regularly experienced by those requiring even the most urgent care.   


Effective inventory management of beds and other medical assets – from bladder scanners and wheelchairs to Baxter pumps and oxygen cylinders, is no longer something hospitals ‘should’ do, but must prioritise.  


Hospitals manage a dizzying amount of assets, and due to their sheer size, it is virtually impossible to maintain visibility of bed (and other asset) locations. Real-time tracking the location of beds, patient trolleys and cots with RFID technology is proven to increase healthcare availability, efficiency and utilisation, whilst reducing time spent by staff looking for specific items. 

Zebra’s 2022 Hospital Vision Study also reports that 89% of executive decision-makers and 83% of clinicians surveyed agree real-time intelligence is essential for optimal patient care.  Here we discuss just a few reasons why hospitals and trusts up and down the UK are switching to RFID technologies to monitor, locate and track their beds and other critical assets.  



Better utilisation and visibility  


RFID tracking technology empowers clinical staff with unprecedented visibility of their bed estate across any required geographical area, which is simply impossible with manual systems. RFID solutions also reduce bottlenecks, highlighting beds that require repairing, servicing and cleaning, ensuring they are available to use at the time of need.  


Additionally, RFID locating helps staff keep track of hired beds, so the solution offers huge savings in late return fees and unnecessary hire charges. The data and visibility attained in tracking leased beds also ensures that all those any hospital or trust are paying for are indeed onsite.    


Infection control and cleaning  


The pandemic that has crippled the globe over the past two years has demonstrated the need to locate, isolate and decontaminate specific beds when it comes into contact (or even potential contact) with a virus or infection. Identifying contaminated beds without touching them offers a key weapon on the fight against infection, and unquestionably saves patient and staff lives.  


Speed up maintenance   


Clinical engineers trek miles to find beds and other critical equipment due for repair or maintenance, wasting valuable time. Having a system that can locate beds quickly means more time is available for staff to concentrate on core tasks. This, in turn, improves the up-time of beds, increases availability and often avoids the need to hire additional beds to cope with demand, reducing costs.   


RFID systems allow the age of the bed to be captured, in addition to the dates of historical repairs or maintenance. This ensures the correct beds are replaced when they reach end-of-life, and alerts can be setup to provide clinical planners and staff with plenty of warning before scheduled maintenance or servicing.   



Find specialist beds quickly  


Searching for specialist beds (bariatric, ultra-low or spinal) is often time-consuming, resulting in patients being placed in standard beds that further diminish their safety and comfort. This can use up already stretched staff resources and lead to equipment damage, e.g., putting a bariatric patient in a regular bed that is not designed to support their weight.  


Improve incident reporting and compliance   


RFID systems provide clear audit trails of asset locations, whilst also simplifying and enhancing incident reporting. They pinpoint where damage has occurred and highlight areas of frequent damage, meaning procedures and practices can be changed based on real data.   


Beds and bed rails fall under the MHRA recommendation, meaning that clinical engineering teams must ensure adequate systems are in place to record the locations of each bed. RFID simplifies and speeds up the process of auditing, and allows for more frequent inventory checks. Accurate records also ensure that beds are maintained correctly, so the Health & Safety Executive requirements are satisfied.  


Future strategy  


Data collected by tracking beds supports cost-effective and evidence-based strategic decisions. This can include deciding if beds should be retired based on their maintenance history and if assets need maintenance. This invaluable data helps to forecast future spending and support a convincing case for replacement funding, and helps to ensure sufficient suitable beds are available for patient care.  


“By adopting leading-practice technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and digitizing the supply chain at the point of use, health care providers and vendors can improve visibility into consignment inventory at the patient bedside and adjust direct movement of inventories in real time to areas experiencing shortages.”  



It’s no secret that costs in the healthcare supply chain continue to soar, while budgets simultaneously fall. In an environment of tightening margins, hospitals and trusts must find solutions for cost reduction while maintaining exceptional patient care. RFID solutions provided by Kinsetsu are empowering clinicians to provide the best possible care and improve the outcomes for their patients whilst also preserving margins and maximising efficiencies.