Feature Content

Featured interview: Ben Farrar of Traka on operational efficiencies for device management in healthcare

Our latest interview saw HTN sit down for a chat with Ben Farrar, business development manager for the healthcare sector for UK-based Traka, the global market leader in key and asset management.

To begin with, Ben shared some insight into his role, which sees him take on responsibility for Traka’s healthcare clients, including responsibility for the Traka systems that they currently utilise as well as their growth with the solutions.

“The vast majority of our clients are NHS organisations, and we also work with private healthcare organisations within the UK and Ireland,” he said. “The healthcare market has been a significant part of the Traka UK marketplace since Traka launched around 25 years ago. Some of the first customers we ever had were NHS clients – that is probably because the nature of healthcare means those organisations were quick to pick up on the importance of managing and auditing the use of sensitive equipment and substances.”

Traka produces innovative systems custom-built to manage access to keys and equipment and across multiple locations. As well as controlling access to the keys, Traka can produce a full audit trail of transactions that have taken place within, “So if an investigation was required at any point, our software allows you to immediately pull up a record of who has had access to what keys, at any particular time.”

The system is powered by TrakaWEB Software, which displays information relating to electronic asset management through a dashboard and integrates into access control platforms, HR databases and Traka’s intelligent hardware cabinets. Explaining how it works, Ben said: “An administrator can log on to the dashboard at any point in time, as long as they have authorisation to do so, and they will see a visual representation of the equipment that has been supplied in their particular location.” Clicking on a particular key position or a particular compartment within the asset management solution will provide a live transaction history, providing information on who holds that key or asset at this moment in time; and the system will also provide a brief history of the relevant users. If required, more detail can also be provided, such as the condition in which the asset was returned in each user.

An example in the healthcare space, Ben noted, could be tracking who has accessed controlled drugs; and Traka’s systems can link up to electronic patient records so that organisations can track not only who has taken the keys to a particular drugs cabinet, but also which drugs they have taken and which patients those drugs have been prescribed to.

Operational efficiencies: the key challenges for the NHS 

“One of the challenges that we often hear from the NHS is the need to manage more and more temporary staff,” said Ben. “Previously, you had a regular and consistent team of people working in a particular ward or hospital, and it was less challenging to manage their access. Now, you’ve got staff coming into a 24/7 environment and requiring access to all of these sensitive locations and access credentials. They’ve got various training needs on different levels whether that is around care procedures or technical hardware training. It puts an additional burden on the management with regards to handling that access, as these are mandatory policies dictated by best working practices and governance.”

Traka provides an integrated solution into staff management programmes; these programmes send information on which staff members are expected to require access into the Traka system and “within a matter of minutes, these staff members will be remotely granted access to the keys or the assets that they need to carry out their work.”

Additionally, figures suggest that up to 40 percent of equipment within the NHS gets damaged or lost within its expected life cycle. “Our system introduces accountability onto the users,” said Ben. “Each time they transact with the Traka system, there is a very clear communication that this user had accessed an asset and taken responsibility for it. It also highlights the time period that the user was responsible for the asset. Also, if they don’t return the asset within a set deadline, Traka can send out electronic reports via email to the managers to alert them.”

Optimising operationally 

“The days of ‘nice to have’ solutions are long gone,” Ben reflected. “There has to be an operational benefit and a significant, provable return on investment (ROI) now. For the NHS, that ROI often needs to be a cash release. It needs to help the NHS save money immediately.”

Optimising operationally means staff having the right kit at the right time as needed to perform their job. “The NHS is driving towards a community service approach where this becomes even more important. If staff travel to perform a home visit and they do not have the information that they need along with the necessary tools and equipment, then it’s a wasted visit. It’s not just a case of popping out of the ward briefly to grab something from a neighbouring ward – the equipment could be miles away.”

Traka is placing focus on the NHS’s community drive, Ben shared, and the solution’s remote nature allows Traka to support and track access to the necessary equipment from strategically located NHS environments. “If a community nurse wakes up and their laptop isn’t working or they require a particular piece of medical equipment, they don’t need to travel to a centralised location where these pieces of equipment are stored. They have a much shorter journey to one of our locations and a simple process once there to collect what they need. In doing so we are supporting staff members to optimise their own efficiencies too and increase the time available to perform vital care duties”.

Improved traceability and processes, data compliance

Ben highlighted a number of benefits that NHS organisations have seen from partnering with Traka to improve their key and asset management, including improved traceability and processes, data compliance and reduced staff downtime.

Traka’s main goal this year has been summarised in three letters: GSD, or “great service delivers”. Delivering great service goes beyond the product itself, Ben continued, and takes Traka into a space where they are actively listening to customers and responding with solutions that meet their exact challenges.

“In each tender bid that we respond to or each meeting that we attend, there will be similar challenges raised – but they will all be unique in their outcome goals. If the particular NHS trust has a goal around increased patient-facing time, for example, then we will be talking to them about the ability to free up nursing time – potentially 45 minutes per shift – by using an electronic key management system that is going to allow them to store their keys in strategically positioned locations, in robust environments. There will be less time given to hunting down keys, or walking round trying to find somebody who you think might possibly have the key you need, and more time given to caring for patients.”

Alternatively, the NHS organisation might be focused on sustainability targets. In these instances, Traka will focus on improving the life cycle of the equipment to reduce waste. Traka’s own solutions come with a “proven operational life of over ten years”.

Looking to the future

A current focus for Traka is the medical, biomedical and clinical engineering marketplace, Ben shared, specifically the hospital equipment library function. This work will incorporate different pieces of equipment – “anything that is associated by patient care,” Ben explained. “Anything that falls within a certain size bracket, we can store and manage within our solutions.” Work is ongoing with a number of partners to develop a solution to improve access to equipment and efficiencies for these pieces of equipment.

“Ultimately, it’s about supporting highly technical engineers in this space to get on with the work that they are carrying out, cleaning, maintaining and calibrating this equipment. That means that the more mundane administrative tasks can be handled by our hardware – distributing the equipment, for example, and identifying its location within a hospital.”

With Traka’s hardware acting as both vendor and locator of the equipment, NHS managers will be able to see where it is within their organisation and also when there is a shortage that they need to tackle. They will also see data on how often the equipment is being used and by whom, to support improvements in stock profiling and help managers to ensure that different teams are getting the access they need.

Other aims for the future include continuing to build upon the relationships with key partners ” to continue to work hand in hand with real-time location service providers as part of the complete asset management solution,” Ben noted, “and expanding our offering within new build and refurb projects. We also want to further our reach into recognised framework providers, in order to facilitate working with us.”

Where would Traka like to see the NHS in five years’ time?

“I really support the NHS’s drive towards care in the community,” stated Ben, “and having a hospital-at-home experience makes sense on a number of levels. One of the main drivers will be taking patients away from the hospital environment and caring for them at home, which will free up time, space and staff within the hospitals to improve patient flow. It will also allow managers within the hospital more time to review technology and solutions that will help the overall operation and efficiency of the hospital.”

How the NHS will achieve this is a major challenge faced by the health system, Ben acknowledged. “But it comes down to making sure that the staff are effectively empowered by the right equipment; and that the right staff are carrying out the right functions. This can only be achieved by the NHS adopting appropriate digital technologies”.

Many thanks to Ben for joining us.

Discover Traka Healthcare Solutions.