Guest Column | November 19, 2014

RTLS Helps Manage Equipment Fleet Size And Increase Nurse Satisfaction

Scott Pentecost is the Manager of Materiel Operations at Christiana Care Health System.

By Scott Pentecost

Using a real-time location system (RTLS) has proven to be exceptionally beneficial to cost containment at Christiana Care Health System, a not-for-profit teaching health system in Wilmington, Delaware, that includes two hospitals with more than 1,100 beds. One of the most significant benefits has been that the RTLS helps us understand how to manage our equipment fleet. The technology’s asset utilization data provides us with insights to avoid purchasing or renting equipment unnecessarily. The RTLS also helped us achieve our primary goals of improved nurse satisfaction and operational efficiency. When nurses can expect equipment to be available and in its proper location, their trust in the equipment distribution system increases, their frustration with “hunting and gathering” equipment is reduced and hoarding behaviors are eliminated or greatly reduced.

Prior to the RTLS implementation, locating equipment was sometimes a challenge, particularly in our surgical and procedural units. In 2006, we began to explore RTLS technology, but the hardware didn’t meet our needs and the project was postponed. We revisited the project and signed a contract in 2008 to implement the technology in 2009.

We began the RTLS asset management initiative with our infusion pumps since historically this resource proved the biggest challenge to our nurses who were looking for available, clean and ready-to-use pumps when they needed them. At that same time, we were also considering buying additional infusion pumps and talked with clinical leaders to determine needs. The estimates were much larger than we expected, so we conducted an investigation to determine the reasons.

For nurses, the process for obtaining pumps was laborious and time-consuming. When an IV pump was needed, the clinician had to log in to a computer and complete an online request that was sent to the equipment room. The request sat in queue with all the other requests throughout the hospital until the equipment staff could locate an available pump, clean it and redeploy the item. Our goal was to deliver an IV pump within 20 minutes of the request, but our response time was often 60 minutes — or as long as four hours. With the RTLS, we avoided a major capital expenditure of additional equipment, and we were also able to significantly improve our nurses’ equipment procurement process.

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