Medical oxygen is a vital component of quality healthcare in the United States and around the world with tens of thousands of people a day relying on it in emergencies and for quality-of-life. With such extensive usage and resultant inconsistent processes, managing medical oxygen is a substantial and costly challenge for every healthcare operator - from hospitals to assisted living facilities and hospice providers. Electronic monitoring and tracking of medical oxygen allows healthcare businesses to substantially improve their internal processes, enhance patient care, lower risk and reduce costs. But what is electronic medical oxygen monitoring?
What is Medical Oxygen Monitoring - Electronic Medical Oxygen Monitoring Defined.
To effectively remotely monitor a healthcare facility's medical oxygen inventory, two critical pieces of data must be tracked.
1. Pressure: Each medical oxygen canister is equipped with a pressure gauge to indicate whether the tank is running low. Generally it is up to RNs and other care providers to manually keep an eye on these gauges, determine when the canisters are at risk of running out, and scramble to find and replace these cannisters. With electronically monitored oxygen, the gauges are replaced by "smart gauges" that communicate wirelessly back to a centralized monitoring location that immediately notifies the appropriate personnel when a cannister is starting to run low on air pressure. This notification can take place in a variety of ways - smartphone, email, text message - and allows healthcare providers to lower risk and avoid potentially catastrophic mistakes.
2. Location: In addition to the pressure of a particular canister, it is important to know exactly where each canister is in the facility at any point in time. As oxygen cannisters are often mobile along with patients and equipment, having real-time location information allows healthcare operators to effectively respond to medical oxygen issues, including empty canisters, or locating a full canister in the event of an emergency. Integrating the medical oxygen inventory into a healthcare facility's existing RTLS (Real-Time Location Service) allows for rapid deployment of the location tracking of medical oxygen inventory.
Benefits of Electronic Medical Oxygen Monitoring
Tracking the location and pressure of your medical oxygen inventory results in a variety of benefits for a healthcare provider including improved patient care, lower costs, lowered insitutional risk, reduced inventory and re-allocation of work to the appropriate human resources. Some highlights include:
- Process Improvement - With instant notification anytime an oxygen canister is running low and the exact location of that canister, healthcare operators can eliminate the scramble associated with identifying an empty extinguisher and finding a replacement (generally agreed to take approximately 10 to 15 minutes per RN per shift). Additionally, maintenance personnel - as opposed to high priced RNs - can manage the replacement of the canisters before they become a concern, enhancing patient care.
- Inventory Right-sizing - Because of inefficiencies in process and the wide array of individuals interacting with the medical oxygen inventory, hospitals and healthcare facilities often rent and maintain substantially more medical oxygen inventory than they need. For many organizations electronic medical oxygen monitoring can result in a 30% or more reduction in canister inventory. Additionally, improved processes and electronic monitoring of pressure can result in a near elimination of unnecessary re-charges of full or mostly full canisters (a very common problem in healthcare).
- Lower costs - Elimination of unneccessary inventory and canister refills, the redistribution of responsibilities from RNs to lower cost maintenance personnel, process improvements and procurement improvements can add up to big savings. Some hospitals estimate the savings at $500 or more per year per bed.
- Improved Care - Most importantly, electronic medical oxygen monitoring leads to improved care by dramatically lowering the risk associated with unneccesary empty or missing medical oxygen tanks.