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The Foundation of Successful Healthcare Asset Management

As described in our previous blog post, Is Your Medical Facility Haunted by Ghost Assets?, a healthcare asset listing containing items that do not actually exist at your facility is problematic. So once you have had a healthcare asset inventory and reconciliation to remove those pesky ghost assets, you’ll want to keep your asset listing clean. This can be challenging because maintaining the integrity of your asset listing is a collaborative effort, but these tips can help.

First, ensure that you set up clearly defined policy and procedures for tangible personal property and that the appropriate parties at your healthcare facility are aware of and fully understand them. This is the foundation of successful healthcare asset management.

Your healthcare asset policy and procedures should be written and made available either in print and/or through an easily accessible, shared location such as your intranet. Begin this document with an explanation of its objectives along with some examples of why it is important to properly track assets, such as insurance purposes or government regulations.

Next, set forth your definitions. For capital assets, explain that the items must have had an acquisition cost, regardless of their current value, equal to or above your capitalization threshold (include the actual dollar amount) for this classification. Include any other terms you will reference throughout the document.

Outline responsibilities. If you expect that department directors or managers will perform the work of reporting asset transfers and disposals and that Receiving will report asset acquisitions, ensure that they understand this responsibility and that they know who to report this information to and how to do so. By requiring that new items are tagged upon receipt by a single entity, it will be easier to ensure only assets within capital threshold will be tagged and that the tags will be placed in the appropriate position on each item.

Associating each asset with unique tag numbers can make asset tracking easier. These tags will serve only to maintain an accurate asset log and will be a different and separate type of tag than the kind used by Biomedical Engineering, which are used for equipment maintenance purposes. Note that while it is possible to simply record serial numbers instead of tagging, that method can make routine audits more difficult, as serial numbers are often located on hard to see surfaces of equipment. If you plan to record both serial numbers and tag numbers, be sure to establish which type of information will be the primary component by which each asset will be identified. If tags will be used, describe tagging in full; include an explanation of:

  • What to tag and what not to tag, some examples are:

    • IT items like computers may have a different tag, and many items will also have a BioMed tag. Do not cover these tags; they are used for other types of tracking. Some of these items will fall beneath the capital threshold and do not require an asset tag, while some will need an asset tag – carefully review the acquisition cost of the item against the capital threshold to determine whether to apply an asset tag.

    • A tag number should be recorded for some items, like endoscopes, but cannot have a tag physically applied because of the cleaning process or other reason (explain what to do with the tag itself, perhaps require it be turned in to Accounting so that its unique number is not accidently reused, etc)

    • Include a list of examples of items that should receive an asset tag

    • Provide a point of contact to resolve any uncertainty over whether something should be tagged

  • When to tag: all items should be tagged immediately upon receipt by (insert responsible party here)

  • Where to tag so that the numbers can easily be seen when the item is in use

    • Example: do not tag a bed on the back of the headboard as it will be completely out of view when a patient is in it; instead, place the tag at the footboard end.

    • Set a rule of thumb as to the general location a tag should be placed on any item. For example, instruct that a tag should be placed at the top right side of any piece of equipment whenever possible. (Exceptions to this rule may be caused by insufficient surface area to apply the tag there, or there could already be a logo or other information there.) Consistently tagging items in the same spot will make it easier to find the tag number information in the future.

  • How to record asset tags for each situation (acquisition, transfer, disposal)

    • Create a standardized form that includes all required information to be completed for any of these asset activities and information on where to send the completed forms.

      • A standardized nomenclature for consistent equipment description is fundamental to maintaining an accurate asset listing. Include an exhaustive list of asset types that should be used verbatim to describe items on the form.

(Here’s an example of why standardized descriptions are important. Imagine Intensive Care has a monitor in each patient room by ABC Company, and the model is Cardio Scope 700. Meanwhile, on patient floors there are monitors by XYZ Company called Mega Vitals 5. It is very likely that these two monitors will be described differently even though they are the same type of equipment. Examples might be: ICU Monitor and Vitals Monitor, ABC Monitor and XYZ Monitor, or Cardio Scope Monitor and Mega Vitals Monitor. In fact, it is even possible, especially if additional monitors are purchased after some time, that two of the same exact model of monitors could be described differently. Such variances will make it difficult to sort your data to view every monitor at your facility. It is better, therefore, to standardize on a description such as Monitor, Patient or Monitor: Physiologic because the manufacturer and model information will still be recorded in their respective fields and can serve as additional filters, if needed, without limiting the initial sort.)

  • This is a good place to outline transfer and disposal policies

Finally, you may also want to include information on your physical inventory procedures and policy and even a record page to list the month and year each time an asset inventory and reconciliation is completed. Inventories should be performed at regular intervals to ensure tagging procedures are being followed appropriately, and the reconciliations will clean up any ghost assets that may have formed on your asset listing.

A well-organized and detailed document containing your tangible personal property policies and procedures is the first step to successful healthcare asset management. Other asset management tools, such as the standardized form for tracking asset activity mentioned above, will also make keeping up with assets much easier for everyone involved. Stay tuned to our blog for a post with more on that coming soon.

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