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Medical Equipment Tracking Can Prevent Theft and Provide Transparency

[Note: During the coronavirus, I am writing articles that shed light on how location-based services and GPS tracking technology can deliver benefits in supply chain management, efficiency and security, to support responses to the Covid-19 epidemic. Parts 1 and Part 2. Follow my new Twitter account.]

Amidst critical shortages of medical equipment across the globe, including PPE, masks and ventilators, sadly thefts of these essential items are being reported. Some have even questioned whether frontline doctors, nurses or healthcare workers could be to blame.

What’s certain is that thefts need to be prevented, these important supplies protected, and that no one has time to waste on these matters. GPS equipment tracking of medical devices and supplies can help to prevent theft and wasted vital time that is needed to fight Covid-19.

On March 29, in the UK, the BBC ran a story on a theft at Bradford Royal Infirmary. Dr John Wright reported on lockdown preparations at the hospital. Despite closing eighteen entrances so only one main door was in use a man disguised as a doctor attempted to gain access. It’s speculated he may have been trying to steal equipment, PPE or drugs. The hospital had already experienced thefts of surgical gowns, masks, protective equipment and sanitiser. In the same report it was revealed that a heroic doctor was buying industrial masks and using his 3D printer to attach medical filters. Another bought 2,000 pairs of goggles from a builder’s merchants as these experts prepare for cases of Covid-19 that may demand far more equipment and beds than the hospital currently has.

On the same day in the US, Bloomberg wrote that President Trump had suggested a New York hospital was losing masks because of crime. The report added that he had alleged the unnamed hospital had “lost protective masks or even allowed them to be stolen.” Speaking about figures illustrating the massive increase in masks being used by one customer of medical distributor Owens & Minor Inc Trump is reported as saying, “Where are the masks going — are they going out the back door?” The president’s comments caused outrage. Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said in a statement that New York’s health care workers “deserve better than their president suggesting that PPE is ‘going out the back door’ of New York hospitals.”

There’s no time or resources to waste

So, what’s the solution? Medical equipment theft must be prevented and the location and quantity of important resources like masks, PPE and ventilators could be tracked for transparency. GPS equipment tracking can ensure items and devices remain where they are needed, and their use monitored so that replenishment and shortages can be noted and actioned.

GPS tracking devices are now so small they can be attached or inserted into a single device, crate, pallet or shipment.  Devices from companies like MyTrackingDevices ship pre-programmed and connected to their servers. Once switched on such a device’s location is displayed using a GPS tracking dashboard. The dashboard can be accessed via the web or is available as an application. Most importantly such software can track many devices, as many as needed, in real time and within metres of their locations.

Pallets and cartons of PPE are invaluable. GPS equipment tracking can allow healthcare managers to monitor their location from origin to hospital, and their location within a hospital. The dashboard can be configured using geofencing capabilities to ensure if a tracking device leaves a designated area then alerts are immediately issued. Alerts can be by SMS, email or push notification. If hospital managers believe a theft is in progress the police can be notified and immediately provided with the location of the device.

GPS equipment tracking in the medical sector and used in the fight against Covid-19 could not only prevent loss due to theft. Tracking can make identifying key resources, stock levels and locations transparent and the monitoring of movement of resources seamless, so that every piece of PPE is where it is needed most.

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