Keeping Track of Wheelchairs: No Easy Task

Wheelchair services are becoming increasingly popular in hospitals and airports due in large part to the aging population. In the U.S. alone, for example, the number of people needing wheelchair assistance in airports rose by 13 percent annually in the years from 2002 to 2011.

Despite being fairly large, wheelchairs somehow manage to get lost or misplaced surprisingly often. In fact, around a quarter of the average hospital’s wheelchair fleet gets stolen or lost every year. In the case of an inventory that started out with 500 wheelchairs, this can equate to as much as $25,000 in losses every year. Making matters worse, staff members can spend as much as 30 percent of their working time looking for the wheelchairs, which amounts to approximately $28,000 per month.

Beacons Can Alleviate Asset Loss

Log books don’t even come close to helping because they lack the ability to actually locate the assets; they only keep track of the last person to take the wheelchair. What happened to it after that is anyone’s guess. Those wheelchairs that are left outside unattended can even end up being stolen, sometimes unintentionally. RFID is also not as useful as one might expect in this case given the small transmission field of the signal.

One way that wheelchair fleets can be better managed is by attaching beacons to every wheelchair. This can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for healthcare centers and airports every year.

This enables them to be tracked individually in real-time ¬– for example, the exact position of every wheelchair in use could be displayed on a map. Moreover, if one does happen to leave the building, an alarm can be activated to alert management to the situation. Given that it’s now not unusual for an airline to have to serve more than 30,000 passengers with wheelchairs in a month, the need has never been greater to keep track of this valuable asset.