I have to admit, I used to be a Miley Cyrus fan, thanks in large part to my 10-year old daughter Gillian. And truth be told, I still root for her despite her public fall from grace. So when I saw a blog comparing Miley Cyrus to Swiss Cheese, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Ms. Cyrus and my latest blog topic, Capital Asset Tracking. They are more alike than one might think…
1. They can both be really confusing.
Are we talking about Hannah Montana, the pre-teen country star or the queen of twerking? There are thousands of websites dedicated to figuring both of them out; and as far as I can tell, not much progress has been made.
Capital asset tracking can be confusing because it means so many different things to so many people in the hospital. The finance and planning teams typically think of a general ledger-type list of assets that includes purchasing history, ownership information, location, and depreciation schedules.
The operations and IT teams typically think of RFID and RTLS (Real Time Location Systems) that provide location information. While the healthcare technology management team (aka clinical engineering) wants all of that information plus usage and maintenance history.
Try this. Ask your colleagues in finance, planning, operations and healthcare technology management how they define Asset Tracking. It is rare to find a shared opinion. This blog post is focused on the operational and financial aspects.
2. They both seemed like a good idea at the time, but now they’re a mess.
Miley started her career as the adorable Hannah Montana. She was cute, sweet and usually doing the right thing. Not a bad role model in the context of Hollywood. Now? Not so much…
Similarly, Capital Asset Tracking, however you define it, sounds like a good idea at first. How can you have an accurate balance sheet if you aren’t keeping track of your inventory? How do you meet regulatory requirements like SarBox, HIPAA, Joint Commission, CMS, etc? How do you effectively manage replacement planning? Most hospitals recognize the need for an effective and accurate means of tracking assets across the lifecycle. Implementing it is where it gets tricky.
It usually doesn’t take long for a hospital to realize that their asset data is spread out across the organization in silos that don’t talk to one another. And when they try to manually reconcile the financial and operational data, they quickly realize that the data is so far out of whack that it isn’t worth trying to map.
3. There is a big difference between perception and reality.
Ms. Cyrus is a complex character. How much of her public persona is fabricated for publicity? It’s impossible to know, but one thing we do know is that a lot of the images and information that make it out to the masses is intentional.
Certain methods of tracking your assets can also create a perception that may not be reflective of reality. Any hospital that has done a physical inventory knows that this is where it can get really messy. A physical inventory is typically when the hospital realizes that the mismatch between their operational and financial databases, discussed in #2, is only the tip of the iceberg. It is not uncommon for the physical inventory to reveal that the databases have error rates over 50%. How does that factor into compliance and financial reporting?
4. They can both be awkward and uncomfortable subjects of discussion.
Even a brief discussion of Miley can raise a multitude of topics that many people would rather not discuss in mixed company. Enough said on that topic.
How to keep track of your assets can also be a difficult conversation. Asset management is usually carved up and managed by multiple departments in the hospital. Getting these folks in a room together to discuss the quality of their data, the implications of bad data and how to fix it can be a challenge.
5. They are both hard to clean up.
This doesn’t need much explanation for Miley. Perhaps her recent visit to rehab will help.
Capital asset tracking is also hard to clean up thanks to data silos, workflow silos, the lack of a standard nomenclature, and the constant flow of assets in and out of the system.
6. They can never get enough attention. (They can't stop, and they won't stop.)
Miley (or her PR agent) can’t seem to get enough attention, whether it be good or bad. Just when you think she is fading into the background an absurd twerking video goes viral.
Asset tracking systems are similar. Hospitals frequently add new assets and retire assets, so the data is always in a state of flux. It’s alive; and it needs constant attention. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to perfect your data by conducting a physical inventory, mapping all data to a standard nomenclature and cleaning up your databases accordingly, but it will quickly devolve into a mess without well defined workflow and automation to maintain data integrity.
7. They can make or break a career or reputation.
Be careful the next time you are hanging out with Miley! You don’t want to end up in the tabloids, a YouTube video or federal court.
Asset tracking can be a wrecking ball too. Being called out for inaccurate data can be a career killer: “I don’t have four of those C-Arms in my hospital! And why don’t you have my new ultrasound probes on the list?!” So can a failed compliance audit.
8. Impossible to ignore them and they aren't going away any time soon.
Miley is everywhere you look and that isn’t likely to change. Maybe we will all get lucky and she will take on Taylor Swift as a mentor.
The increasing focus on asset tracking isn’t going anywhere either. As hospitals continue to get squeezed financially, they have to do more with less. Hospitals spend over $20 billion a year on capital assets in the US alone, and they can typically save thousands of dollars per bed per year through lifecycle management of assets. An effective asset tracking system can help them get there.
Mainspring’s asset management solutions help hospitals maximize the return on assets through an automated closed-loop total lifecycle management process. Learn more about us at www.mainspringhealth.com.
For more information on Miley Cyrus, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.