How mobile scanning and computer vision technology helped hospital Trust improve efficiency

Paul Davis, VP of sales, Northern Europe, Scandit explains how mobile barcode scanning and computer vision technology has helped improve cost and time efficiency by 95% across 114 wards at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust.  

In healthcare, identifying patients in real-time, monitoring inventory of medication and equipment and improving processes is increasingly essential. It is why the government’s Scan4Safety programme, which was launched to improve patient safety, product accountability, location traceability and efficient processing was introduced. At the heart of the programme are leading edge point-of-care scanning and computer vision technologies.

Time is wasted every day locating patients and completing straightforward administrative processes. The bigger the healthcare unit, service or Trust, the wider and more complex its responsibilities and the longer these processes take to complete.

Until quite recently patient administration across many of the UK’s NHS Trusts was managed manually and often using paper-based processes. Indeed it was not only patients and their notes that were handled in this way, but medical devices and supplies too.

But a digital revolution is underway, and, with the influence of programmes like Scan4Safety, medical staff are now using barcode scanning-enabled smartphones and tablets to capture data from patient wristbands, medication and equipment. In some cases they are also benefiting from augmented reality feedback to visualise vital patient information. With the right solutions built into their smartphones, they are able to capture multiple barcodes in a single scan, which improves work efficiency and enables inventory counts to be carried out quickly, ensuring the right medication or equipment can be located from the right place.

With the computer vision and data capture apps installed on smart devices, today’s clinicians and nursing staff are not only improving patient care, they are realising considerable cost savings and exchanging cumbersome legacy systems with solutions that are fit for the future of  UK healthcare.

A case in point

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is a great example. As one of six demonstrator sites in the UK selected by the Department of Health and Social Care under the Scan4Safety programme, it was challenged to demonstrate the benefits of GS1 and PEPPOL standards to enable more efficient eProcurement and Supply Chain practices, using point-of-care data capture technologies.

The Trust started its programme with an initial focus on improving its procurement, supply chain and inventory processes. Using the existing inventory management system, it worked closely with operating theatre staff to start capturing the details of products that were implanted into the patient at the point-of-care using dedicated barcode scanners. Following a successful deployment, the Trust ran a series of tests that showed that in the Ophthalmology department alone, the nursing time involved in a product recall using the old system could amount to over eight hours. By comparison, the inventory time using the new system was just 35 minutes. In terms of cost this is a difference between a minimum of £173 previously and a maximum of £9 using the new system.

The organisation was already using an inventory management solution which included a limited ability to scan barcodes on products, patient wristbands and locations. However, this was running alongside very basic methods of tracking inventory, including staff handwriting notes. It became clear very quickly that if, under the Scan4Safety programme, the Trust was to capture data across all points of care including medical machinery and equipment and procedural information, this would require a readily available barcode scanning application and technology. It turned to a fit-for-purpose scanning and computer vision solution from Scandit, which specialises in building software for mobile apps. The Scandit solution  leverages the computing power of mobile phones and other smart devices and delivers extremely high barcode scanning speeds and accuracy. This meant that staff could scan patient wristbands, their assigned bed, and any clinics or operating theatres they were taken to, and the information was updated in real-time to the electronic whiteboard at the nurses’ station for an accurate patient picture.

Given that mobile barcode scanning is a relatively new concept compared with the use of dedicated barcode scanners, it was important for the Trust to test the efficiency of the scanning solution, particularly looking at the ease of use and functionality. To do this, it launched a pilot scheme last year on one of its breast care wards using six smart devices. It was so successful that staff didn’t want the pilot to end. One of the features that most impressed was the speed and accuracy with which scanning could be done, which was important in ensuring that busy nurses would incorporate it as part of their patient care routine.

114 wards now using solution

After the success of the pilot, the Scandit solution is now being used on all tablet devices by multiple staff across 114 wards in the Trust, allowing them to scan a patient’s wristband, access and observe their medical records and ensure they are in the correct location. Instead of completing paper-based forms, nurses record vital information on electronic patient forms, to hand over to the next shift. The Trust is processing 70,000 patient form submissions every month, enabled by scanning and computer vision technology.

Whilst healthcare is reaping the rewards of its investment in mobile computer vision technology, the same core solutions are also being integrated in multiple other enterprises from retail through to logistics and manufacturing. Any organisation that uses barcodes and depends on the accuracy and speed of scanning will benefit, with more empowered employees, and the opportunity to automate labour-intensive processes on devices that are easy to use, familiar and available at a fraction of the cost of traditional scanning tools.


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