Medication tracking is an area that rightly gets a lot of attention from healthcare organizations. But another important use for tracking is to keep tabs on the myriad devices used to provide care or comfort to patients.
“Anything as simple as a hospital bed or a wheelchair, or as complicated as a pacemaker – any device that comes in contact with, is transplanted in or is providing diagnostic services for” patients falls into the category of devices for which use records must be kept, explains Anthony de la Fuente, vice president of Idhasoft, which develops hospital management technology.
Indeed, the record keeping responsibilities go even further, as recent changes in regulations have mandated tracking back to the component suppliers. In other words, the entire history of a device must be recorded and available.
Traditionally, when such records have been kept they’ve been on paper, but paper records have proven difficult to maintain in a consistent fashion.
De la Fuente says Idhasoft realized that the key to helping organizations track their devices was “by making it a passive process.” That is, healthcare providers are naturally focused on providing care to patients, not on making sure they’ve kept accurate records on how or how much their devices have been used.
Enter a firm such as Idhasoft, which, by enabling devices and components to be stamped with electronic bar codes, allows providers to focus on their primary tasks by making the device tracking virtually automatic.
As de la Fuente sees it, there are three advantages electronic device history record (eDHR) systems bring to the healthcare sector.
- The entire life story of the machine is immediately available. For example, when a machine needs to be serviced, the technician can call up all of the machine’s history, including work orders, parts that have been exchanged, and any other relevant data.
- Providers can automatically document compliance efforts. Rather than having to take extra steps to document and store information via paper records, providers can be assured that all the information they might need in the case of an audit would be automatically available.
- Devices and manufacturing processes can be more easily improved. De la Fuente points out that “the life sciences industries are under constant price pressure.” The problem, he said, has been that paper records have not been consistent or thorough enough to enable suppliers to determine ways to improve either their manufacturing or distribution processes. Now, however, with seamless, electronically available information, manufacturers are able to collaborate more closely with their key customers as both seek to improve their systems and control costs.
For example, he said, constraints on capital budgets are leading manufacturers to consider usage-based billing on devices such as MRI machines for cash-strapped providers – a move which would not have been possible prior to the introduction of eDHR software.
In short, eDHR systems, along with careful planning, can turn what has been the burden of compliance documentation into a cost savings opportunity for manufacturers and providers alike.
[See also: Tracking a bright future for RTLS]