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How are European hospitals managing data collection and retrieval?

Posted by Zebra EMEA

April 6, 2016 at 7:00 AM


Public and private healthcare organisations across Europe are grappling with the challenge of improving patient care despite budgets being tighter than ever. The industry is under mounting pressures from the ageing population and the increasing expectations on healthcare services. Yet the sector is also under enormous internal pressure to improve standards and patient care, all of which is supposed to be achieved within a drastically smaller budget. 

The question is, how can hospitals balance all of these demands?

Delivering better patient care within constrained budgets and overworked departments can be achieved by improving accuracy and efficiency throughout all hospital functions, and mobile technology can provide the answer to achieving these improvements.

However, we realise it’s not quite as simple as that. There are a number of real and perceived barriers to deploying and using mobile technology effectively within hospitals. Our latest research report assesses these barriers and addresses the way hospitals can overcome them and begin to see the benefits instead. It focuses upon data collection and dissemination in four particular areas, exploring how hospitals currently manage data collection and retrieval, and what their plans are for the future.

Patient ID and beyond

78% of hospitals still use handwritten wristbands. This is an immediate concern as this method is the most error prone and time consuming. However, 70% of hospitals are also using printed wristbands with barcodes. This method is efficient, accurate and also means extra information can be stored on the wristband via the barcode. The problem the survey identified is that hospitals are using multiple methods of patient ID, which could be leading to confusion, inefficiency and inaccurate or incomplete data collection.

Barcoding and RFID offer numerous benefits as they enable a large amount of data to be stored, viewed and updated in real-time while taking up only a small amount of space. The technology is therefore just as valuable when it comes to identifying medication, staff, specimens, assets and even medical supplies. Our survey revealed that 30%-60% of hospitals are already using barcoding and RFID for these purposes, with more planning to do so in the future, although they do not yet appear to have settled on one approach.

Retrieval of clinical and non-clinical data

We wanted to know where mobile technology is being used to collect and retrieve clinical and non-clinical data. The results reveal that 90% of hospitals are already collecting clinical patient data via mobile devices. Not quite as many hospitals are using devices for non-clinical applications such as bed management and meals ordering, but 80% of non-clinical staff expect to begin using devices in the near future. Mobile technology offers huge benefits for both clinical and non-clinical applications, so if hospitals can successfully deploy devices in both areas of hospital activity they will begin to see positive improvements in efficiency levels.


Underpinning the use of mobile technology within hospitals is its WLAN or WiFi network. Hospital staff need fast, simple access to a reliable network in order to successfully collect, share and retrieve information electronically. Our survey identified five key improvements hospitals feel they need to make now. Top of this list of improvements was accessibility for more users, which is an essential part of enabling your hospital staff and operations with mobile technology. Hospitals need to ensure that their chosen network can deliver the right level of performance with the flexibility to grow.

Technology can provide hospitals with the opportunity to improve efficiency, productivity and patient care. However, this can only be achieved if a consistent, effective system is rolled out across all departments, wards and the organisation as a whole and isn’t confined to just clinical applications, but includes non-clinical as well.

In light of these facts, the question we have been asking ourselves is, if technology can offer such significant benefits, why aren’t all hospitals embracing it? Download the full report here to learn why this is and how the perceived barriers can be overcome.

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Topics: Healthcare, EMEA