A small number of vendors, deemed capable of supporting such a large deployment, were invited to tender through a compliant NHS procurement process. But if one word could sum up what The Trust was looking for it was ‘flexibility’.
It needed the technology to be in place for many years and knew that, over time, the scope of what it wanted to track and trace might change.
As part of its discovery process, the project team spoke to Zebra customers from other sectors, including retail and logistics, who typically deploy RTLS solutions across numerous sites and to track many thousands of items. These discussions increased confidence in an RFIDled solution.
The Choice for Zebra MotionWorks
“We quickly realised that asset tracking can cover pretty much anything, and we looked for the solution to seamlessly track a much wider range of assets than we initially anticipated,” said Ellis.
“After speaking to vendors, it was Zebra who were most open to accommodating our changing needs, with its cloudbased Zebra MotionWorks healthcare medical equipment tracking solution. As far as it was concerned, the solution was a blank canvas. This willingness to listen to our requirements and be versatile was the primary reason we went with Zebra, along with its customer references and its ecosystem of technology and support.”
A Lack of Transparency
Initially, The Trust set out to address a lack of visibility of its assets, which caused a range of issues. A key problem was that clinical staff were spending time looking for items, especially those needed for the next case on the operating theatre list.
Patient assets may have been moved to another ward or were unknowingly in medical engineering for routine maintenance. In one time and motion study, which was carried out for a 4-hour period, a total of 3 hours and 48 minutes was taken up by eight theatre team members including clinicians searching for assets.
Tracking Patient Belongings
Moreover, due to the lack of visibility, commonly used items, such as surgical trays, were often over-purchased, or required to be fast tracked through the sterile services department to provide buffer stock. As Ellis’ team explored the capabilities of RTLS, and the potential to immediately track items, it looked to extend the scope of the brief.
One area of interest was the traceability of patients’ belongings. Items like glasses and hearing aids can be misplaced so the patient is unable to read or watch TV, which causes distress.
The GIRFT Methodology
This creates a chain reaction too. Relatives need to raise a concern with the hospital and then clinicians, housekeeping, nursing teams and porters need to spend time looking for items.
In the NHS, there’s a big focus on the GIRFT methodology (‘Getting It Right First Time’), which aims to improve patient outcomes. Using the solution for patients’ belongings was seen as a classic example of GIRFT and a big win for patients, relatives and clinicians.