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Building on the Harland & Simon Discovery Interface

If you’ve read the 1st article in this series then you will be aware of how e-Quip integrates with the Harland Simon Discovery system to provide improved inventory visibility without the need for an expensive purpose-built WiFi infrastructure. This article discusses how we build on this to improve loan management and to provide more detailed equipment usage information.

The Problem

Suppose for example that a device is loaned to a patient on “Ward 1”. Very commonly the device may be transferred to another patient at another location without the knowledge of the library staff and without the original loan necessarily being closed. If there is a long delay between the initial loan issue and the eventual return of the device, it is often the case that the device may have been used by multiple patients in multiple locations. Without RFID support the total number of patients that the device has been used by cannot be known. RFID support allows much more detailed traceability.

The Solution

Auto-loan management works as follows. Suppose that a device is loaned to “Ward 1” on 1/9/2012, and one month later it is returned to the equipment library. In the intervening period the RFID equipment tracking system may have detected the device moving from Ward 1 to Ward 2 (on 3/9/2012), then onto Ward 3 (on 5/9/2012), back to Ward 1 (on 10/9/2012), back again to Ward 3 (on 11/9/2012) and then back to the loan library on 15/9/2012.

Without RFID auto-loan management only 1 loan will exist: to Ward 1 for the period 1/9/2012 to 15/9/2012. Not only do you have no equipment usage information, but if these loans are chargeable then you have no idea who to charge for what.  Using the RFID traceability the following loans management operations can be performed automatically:

1. Close the loan to Ward 1 with a return date of 3/9/2012
2. Issue a new loan to Ward 2, with a start date of 3/9/2012
3. Close this second loan with a return date of 5/9/2012 and issue a new loan to Ward 3 commencing on that date
4. Close this third loan as of 10/9/2012 and issue a new loan to Ward 1 commencing on the same date
5. Close that loan with a return date of 11/9/2012 and issue a new loan to Ward 3 commencing on that date
6. Close that loan with a return date of 15/9/2012

By building on the functionality offered by RFID integration, much more detailed information about equipment usage is available. In this scenario 4 loans have been created and closed with absolutely no user involvement. That’s a pretty impressive benefit.

Note that when using the Harland & Simon Discovery RFID system, device location history is updated as engineering or library staff move around the hospital whilst carrying a PDA running the Discovery application. A member of the library staff may visit each of the locations (Wards 1, 2 & 3) and although they may not actually see the devices, they will be detected by the PDA. It is only on return to the library when the PDA is docked that the RFID system will become aware of the devices in each of the visited locations. It is at this time that the loans will be automatically closed or created.

Loan Auto-Management Exclusions

In some situations it may not be desirable to manage loans in this way. Suppose that a device is loaned to a patient in Ward 1 and at some time during his stay the patient is transferred to the operating theatre for several hours. Later, the patient may spend several more hours in Recovery before eventually being taken back to Ward 1. This is unlikely to represent multiple loans, but rather describes the normal movement of a patient around the hospital during treatment.

In this example, it is possible to exclude the locations Operating Theatre and Recovery so that they do not force the closing or creation of loans. In practice, this is recorded as an inclusion rather than an exclusion. i.e. the location property page miscellaneous tab has a field named Auto-Manage Loans, which, if selected, indicates that loans should be closed or created based on information from the RFID system.

The Location Property Page

The reasons that these are handled as inclusions rather than exclusions are:
1. It is simpler to list the locations where this behaviour is required than to list the locations where it is not.
2. While check-boxes can be set using bulk update, they cannot be unset. Using this approach it is possible to select the locations which should auto-manage loans using bulk update.

Note that your system administrator can configure the system to use a specific loan status for loans which are automatically closed or created.This allows you to easily identify loans which have been processed by auto-loan management.


There are more benefits to RFID integration than simply having a more accurate picture of where your devices are. Auto-management of loans is the first area where we have started to build on this functionality. There will be plenty more! If you have any suggestions then let us know.