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Newark based company The Barcode Warehouse saves healthcare provider Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust a remarkable 88,000 hours of man power with business solution

By: Rob Currell r.currell@iliffepublishing.co.uk

Published: 17:57, 26 December 2023

An area-based business has helped save an NHS trust a remarkable 88,000 hours for staff, and given them the tools to examine better data so that its staff can make more informed purchasing decisions.

Newark business, Barcode Warehouse announced the details as part of the implementation of technology-based solutions alongside Zebra Technologies and Tagnos.

Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is a large acute NHS Trust situated in Kingston upon Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The solutions are now being spread to other areas of the NHS. Photo: Barcode Warehouse.

The hospital receives approximately one million patients annually, which brings pressure on teams and budgets.

Barcode Warehouse were able to help provide a solution that combined inventory management and patient care digital records with real-time location system tracking.

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This project helped the Trust reduce the time and cost implications of locating equipment and sterile instruments across its clinical space.

In 2016, the Department of Health initiated the Scan4Safety Programme, to establish how consistent scanning of barcodes, present on patient wristbands, equipment used for care, implantable devices, and locations, would improve efficiency and safety within the NHS.

“We decided to follow the patient pathway on their entire journey, which was a significantly different project approach," said Rachael Ellis, Scan4Safety Programme Director.

"This means we scan many parts of the patient's pathway including products used on patients whilst they are on our wards pre-surgery and post-surgery.

"This also happens when an anesthetic is administered, when the surgical procedures take place, then when the patient is moved from theatres to recovery or the Intensive Care Unit, and finally when the patient is discharged.

"This provides us with data-rich insights to improve patient safety, reduce waste and expenditure, and improve overall hospital efficiencies.”

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"Scanning barcodes in this way makes it possible for the Trust to gain complete clarity," said a spokesman from The Barcode Warehouse.

"It gives them information on what products have been used on which patients, when, where, and which staff were involved, and supports contact tracing."

Building on the success of their Scan4Safety Programme, Rachael Ellis said they wanted to find a solution that would not only manage their Inventory and Supply Chain – but also look to solve more of the day-to-day operational challenges that a hospital faces.

This is where the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) came into focus, and in late 2021, having tendered the requirements, and evaluating several supplier responses, The Barcode Warehouse was selected as the best-fit supplier with the optimum value-for-money for The Trust.

Rachael said: “We will only adopt a new solution or embark on a change programme if we’re fully convinced that it will help us improve the care we give to our patients.

"This was in the front of my mind when we evaluated our approach to how we build on our GS1 Scan4Safety Programme.

"We wanted a simple, easy-to-use system which would clearly show in a matter of a few clicks, exactly where to find the missing asset.

"This level of transparency is incredibly powerful to our clinical colleagues.”

Today, GS1-approved RFID labels are applied to all medical assets, equipment, beds, mattresses, and sterile trays.

As these are critical items pass under fixed location readers placed within ceilings, the labels emit a signal that provides instant visibility of their location around the entire hospital.

This is shown in two easy-to-use ways, either on a Zebra TC52 handheld device or via the Tagnos software on the desktop application.

These significantly help to reduce the time spent locating medical equipment, reducing the loss of equipment, offering improved insight into usage, and streamlining pre-planned maintenance.

Simon Hemingway, Healthcare Director at The Barcode Warehouse said: “The primary benefit of our all-in-one solution is the real-time control, visibility, and situational awareness offered across the patient pathway.

"By combining RFID technology – with the proven benefits of point-of-care barcode scanning – we’re empowering healthcare workers to deliver the highest level of patient care and best possible patient experience.”

Patient experience has been significantly improved, as the right equipment is in the right place, at the right time.

An example of the effective use of RFID is sterile tray traceability.

This enables employees of The Trust to locate all sterile trays in under six minutes, reducing stress and driving clinical efficiency.

Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust were recognised as being exemplary for their efforts with this RFID project by NHS England and were awarded the prestigious honour of producing the Global Digital Exemplar blueprint on ‘How to implement RFID & RTLS from planning to performing’.

This blueprint is now being used and shared with all of the NHS Trust as the best practice with key project documentation being disseminated.

“Clinical staff can spend a lot of time looking for items," said Rachael.

"In a highly focussed, specialist environment where time is of the essence – such as the operating theatre – the ability to locate items accurately and swiftly is paramount.

"Especially when we consider those items needed immediately for patients, which is, unfortunately, a regular requirement.

"Being able to offer staff an insight into the location of their equipment, extremely quickly is not only in the patients' best interest, but it also helps our ecosystem for managing equipment and maintaining them regularly all of which benefits our patients and staff.

"With Our Scan4Safety and RFID All-in-One Solution, the potential is simply wonderful.

"We have consolidated our stand-alone systems, into a single easy-to-use platform.

"Our new solution offers up even more data transparency, with users able to view dashboards, reports, and details about specific locations, specific products, specific store rooms, or even specific pieces of equipment all at the touch of a button – and with great data – we feel empowered to help our staff make better decisions.”

It’s estimated that around 2,500 staff spend approximately 56 minutes a week (equivalent to 14 minutes per shift) looking for items as they may have unknowingly been moved to another ward or taken out for routine maintenance.

A recent time and motion study across eight theatre teams and a four-hour period showed a total of 3 hours and 48 minutes was taken up by eight theatre team members including clinicians searching for assets.

By implementing the RFID Solution, each search now takes less than 43 seconds on average said a spokesman from The Barcode Warehouse.

"This saves about 35.2 hours per employee per year, equal to 88,000 hours across 2,500 staff, the equivalent of 2,346 weeks per year," they added.

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