By linking the tracking systems of manufacturers and dealers: 1 (Manufacturer) + 1 (Dealer) = 3 (Happy Manufacturer, Dealer and Patient).
Medical equipment manufacturers supply their dealers with demo equipment for their customers, usually patients or clinics, to test. Dealers evaluate whether the equipment provides the expected usefulness and measure the appropriate fit so patients can achieve the desired results. If the fit isn’t good they supply another piece of demo equipment or exchange components until a good fit is determined.
Demo Medical Equipment is Often Lost
As demo equipment moves around from showroom to clinic to hospital to patient’s home and back again, returnable equipment sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Dealers often use Post-it notes and spreadsheets to keep track of the equipment to no avail. These manual methods always fail in the long run, as human nature lends to illegible handwriting, transposed numbers, missed transactions and lost paperwork.
Even if dealers effectively maintain these analog methods, there is always the problem of someone (like manufacturer reps, clinicians, etc.) outside of the dealer’s corporate network, and not authenticated on the corporate tracking system, moving the equipment to a new location. This is especially true because no organization takes responsibility for paying for the equipment until it is placed successfully with a patient.
Most medical equipment dealers use an accounting/billing software for managing their medical equipment inventory. However, this software is usually for internal movements and equipment transactions with customers. Currently, no tool exists that allows this internal inventory system to connect with manufacturers on the other side of the supply chain. This is unfortunate.
Asset Tracking Software Improves Accountability
Medical equipment comes standard with an indelible serial number. This unique identifier makes it possible to track each individual unit and know exactly where that equipment was last located. It also makes it possible to know what actions took place during its service history. Companies usually associate a tracking label with a unique number to the serial number and then scan the label on the equipment into their tracking system.
Today's internet-based environment for data handling, known as the cloud, is universal. Standardized tools access secure databases stored in the cloud and allow trading partners to exchange information with ease. Application protocol interfaces (APIs), web services and internet server tools safely exchange information from one cloud repository to another.
Because of this, trading partners can share information related to the equipment that is common between them. Once an item is entered into the manufacturer’s tracking system, its unique attributes, such as labeling, description, images, location, etc., can be passed along to dealers in order to continue to track those same assets without duplication of effort. In turn, these same attributes can flow into the dealer’s tracking system so that tracking equipment to its end use point is effortless. Manufacturer and dealer reps, as well as anyone who physically moves the equipment and is authenticated, can participate in the tracking process to ensure the collection of accurate and complete data.
By making their equipment tracking systems talk with each other, manufacturers and dealers can improve operational efficiency and reduce damaged, lost and stolen equipment. They spend less time accounting for and trying to find wayward equipment.
Manufacturers can look through the extended tracking system to see the location of equipment and monitor its provisioning. They can ensure the equipment is in good operating order and find out if it is serving the purpose intended. This serves the patient with transparent and accurate provisioning of equipment. Most importantly the patient is served with a more sustainable supply chain where equipment is managed more efficiently and with less cost. Ultimately the patient or the clinic pay the ultimate price for demo equipment and tracking systems that talk to each other can reduce the cost.
Dealers get easy input of registered equipment without duplicating the effort for initialization and documentation of the equipment attributes. They now can have shared responsibility with the manufacturer for the whereabouts of the demo equipment. That is how the supply chain should work – linked and with less waste (1 + 1 = 3).