A nurse looks at her Zebra TC52ax-HC clinical smartphone while standing at a sleeping patient's bedside
By Your Edge Blog Team | January 19, 2022

There are Three Trends to Watch in Healthcare in 2022, and They All Center on Two Things

Improving both supply chain and asset management is the key to improving patient and staff experiences.

This post was contributed by Sarah Archer, Digital Marketing Coordinator at RF-SMART, a Zebra Business Partner.

Over the last year, proper hospital inventory management has become even more crucial for achieving the best patient care. Fueled by the need to adapt to this change in technology, trends such as mobile scanning and automation have become more and more common in clinical settings. The 2022 Zebra Hospital Vision Study shows that momentum will keep going in the coming months, with many hospitals choosing to make the investment in technologies that automate workflows, information sharing and decision making. In fact, 89% of hospital executives and 83% of clinicians surveyed agree real-time intelligence is essential for optimal patient care.

Zebra’s Chief Nursing Informatics Officer, Rikki Jennings, was recently a guest on the RF-SMART podcast, where she discussed the findings and stand-out trends of the Vision Study. Check it out:



One thing that caught my attention was that more than two-thirds of hospital executives still don’t feel their organizations are investing enough to maximize staff efficiency and acknowledge more must be done moving forward. The hospital supply chain is a prime example of an area that can help integrate processes to make hospital staff more efficient by asking them to do less instead of more. And study feedback revealed that many healthcare facilities are choosing to evaluate and implement clinical mobility to achieve real-time, accurate data about their hospital inventory. In other words, they are making investments to implement more efficient hospital supply chain management systems and processes to take more of the load off their staff – and that’s something we like to hear. However, they are not just stopping there.

Based on further analysis of the vision study and our own discussions with healthcare professionals, here are three inventory management practices we expect to see trending in the healthcare supply chain next year:

1. Real-time Inventory Management and Asset Tracking

Limited and inconsistent data remains a significant barrier for many hospitals, and inventory visibility becomes even more critical in unexpected and emerging situations. Therefore, the connection between clinical need and supply chain is a standout trend that will continue to increase in popularity. Expect to see nearly every clinical and nonclinical department increase its utilization of real-time location system (RTLS) for inventory management, as it is becoming more critical to track everything from medications and medical devices to specimens, staff and patients.

Radio frequency identification (RFID), Bluetooth® Low Energy and other location technologies, if properly integrated with business systems and edge devices, can link clinicians to the supply chain in real time. Four-in-10 vision study respondents said their hospitals saw boosts in the accuracy of supplies tracking and inventory management after implementing clinical mobility solutions alone. And 83% said they plan to implement workflow automation to manage the supply chain in the next year, which will further inject efficiencies. Knowing the location and status of supplies and equipment is critical to making smarter, in-the-moment decisions and remaining adaptable.

“More and more, systems inside and outside the hospital are becoming connected and [are] transforming the healthcare delivery system, creating high-efficiency workflows that minimize errors and reduce costs,” the report notes.

2. Dynamic Workflow Automation

Technological strategy and connectivity are being required across all functional areas in healthcare to ease staff communication, increase collaboration and improve responsiveness. As the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) accelerates, more sophisticated technologies like RTLS are increasing in popularity beyond fundamental asset management purposes. In fact, 36% of hospital decision-makers surveyed say RTLS is currently being used for dynamic workflow notifications and another 35% expect to deploy RTLS for this purpose in the next year.

Automation can also provide analytics and automated reporting, which allows providers to turn their data into action. A great example of the power of automation is using analytics to drive periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) demand planning.

Maximum daily usage can be derived from data to determine an optimized PAR stocking level. These PAR level adjustments can eliminate excess and obsolete stock. Oracle Cloud can use automated workflows to automatically process PAR replenishment data and produce a demand planning report with recommended adjustments to current PAR levels. More information about PAR can be found in our PAR Best Practices Guide

3. Expanded Telehealth and Cloud Technology

With more data than ever becoming available to clinicians, it’s imperative that hospitals maximize the usefulness of these data streams by using an integrated systems approach. For many, this means moving their operations from an on-premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to a cloud solution. This is important for real-time visibility and integral for accessibility. With telehealth and remote work becoming more popular, having access to data outside the four walls of the hospital is also vital.

Cloud technology also allows IT teams to remotely manage and update mobile devices through a mobile device management (MDM) system. Using an MDM, IT teams can update firmware and perform updates from a PC in a matter of minutes. This saves time and removes the headache of having to touch every device to manually perform security updates or settings.

Hospital Supply Chain Management Can Transform Patient Care

Ultimately, cloud enablement is at the center of all these trends. A mobile materials management system, like RF-SMART, allows healthcare providers to take control of their inventory and eliminate outdated, manual tracking methods. Using a mobile solution can keep clinicians on the floor updated with what is available in the stockroom, ensure the emergency room (ER) and cath lab have everything they need for tomorrow’s cases, or update the physician on when to expect a certain patient order. Other benefits of cloud inventory include:

  • a reduction in the time required to manage materials.
  • increased visibility and productivity of material handling workers.
  • improved and automated data entry.

Software in the cloud is what ties every aspect of your inventory management together. Whether using a read-to-cloud RFID API that syncs with a real-time cloud inventory solution or simply utilizing a mobile PAR management system, having complete visibility into available supplies could mean the difference between a successful operation or even saving a patient coming into the ER.

Listen to the podcast episode on this topic for a deeper dive!

Healthcare, Best Practices, Podcast,
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The “Your Edge” Blog Team is comprised of content curators and editors from Zebra’s Global PR, Thought Leadership and Advocacy team. Our goal is to connect you with the industry experts best-versed on the issues, trends and solutions that impact your business. We will collectively deliver critical news analysis, exclusive insights on the state of your industry, and guidance on how your organization can leverage a number of different proven technology platforms and strategies to capture your edge.

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