Preventing Equipment Losses in Hospitals

Written on March 19, 2014

Both large and small healthcare facilities share a common problem, preventing equipment losses.  Thefts are committed by patients and their families, medical care givers, support staff and even professional criminals. A well-known healthcare security consultant commented, “Even criminals need medical care, so you never know who’s coming into the hospital.”

A theft of equipment can deprive the patient, who arrives after the theft has taken place, of receiving a timely, critical procedure. Additionally there is a financial cost to replace the equipment. The theft of laptops, tablets etc. pose a significant IT security risk to the facility due to the health information (patient data) contained in these portable devices. HIPPA related fines and penalties can be imposed against the facility as a result.

Often time’s controls are found to have been designed to help safeguard the equipment, but for whatever reason those controls are often not implemented. The healthcare facility must have accounting policies and procedures in place that will help to safeguard the assets and thereby will mitigate the possibility of theft. The facility must also develop a clearly defined policy for dealing with fraud or theft, as well as the consequences. This policy has to be communicated throughout the entire organization to all employees, as well as patients and family members and hospital vendors.

Equipment Safeguarding – Accounting Controls

Equipment can be safeguarded utilizing proper accounting controls which should include:

  • Developing a centralized inventory system for equipment;
  • Assigning departmental managers the oversight responsibility for the equipment in their department;
  • Equipment tagging of each piece of equipment; and
  • Performing periodic physical inventory of equipment.
  • Specific policies should be designed for portable devices that address patient security and prevent these devices from being taken home.

Barcoding or Radiofrequency identification systems (RFID) are examples of two technologies available that can be utilized to track capital items that can be moved easily, and as a result could be taken off premises.

By asking employees, as well as the medical staff, to be on the lookout for theft you can create an organization-wide effort to reduce the cost of theft. It is important for the healthcare organization to stress how costly theft is, not only the economic impact on employees (job losses), but the cost of replacing the equipment by the facility. Stressing ownership by all parties in an effort to curb equipment losses will be a win-win for all stakeholders.

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