This past spring, the healthcare industry was clobbered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Resources were stretched to the limit and there was not nearly enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep medical staff or patients safe. We have seen medical professionals wear bandanas as makeshift masks, and trash bags in place of gowns — heightening the risk of infection and possibly death. As cases continue to explode, so do concerns about pushing our healthcare system beyond its capability. Healthcare administrators need innovative solutions to reduce operational expenses while simultaneously ensuring ample resource availability to cope with the next health crisis. Sound like an oxymoron? We’re here to help. Here are five tips you can implement to improve your inventory management and keep a handle on supply costs:
1. Collect Data from the Supply Chain
Failing to use supply chain data can result in billions of wasted dollars, yet many hospitals and medical centers are still using less sophisticated manual processes like Excel spreadsheets to manage inventory, supply expenses and other supply chain activities. An analysis by Navigant Consulting, estimates that hospitals could save an average of 17.7 percent or $11 million per hospital annually by standardizing their supply chain processes. Using value-based reimbursement models, organizations can more accurately link supplies needed and patient outcomes.
2. Clearly Organize Responsibilities
It’s time to Marie Kondo your inventory of supplies, because we all know that saving time and money sparks joy! Firstly, your team should aim to reduce wasted materials by getting organized – place products nearing expiration towards the front of facility closets. Additionally, get your team onboard by ensuring responsibilities are clearly outlined. Everyone who comes in direct contact with medical supplies should fully understand his or her role in healthcare inventory management. From cleaning rooms, to ordering supplies, or checking purchase orders for accuracy, so many hospital staff members contribute to successful inventory management. Establishing clear communication is the first step to avoiding confusion between departments.
3. Analyze Usage Vs. Order Frequency
Understanding precisely how much of a certain item you are ordering per week, month, or quarter compared to how much of that item you are using in the same timeframe is key to avoiding waste, saving valuable dollars, and planning for success. Another best practice tip? Don’t just assume if you ordered 10,000 units of a product last quarter, you should place that same order again. Make periodic adjustments to your ordering patterns based on the result of the last analysis.
4. Upgrade Hospital Inventory Technology
Are some of your management tools outdated? Sit down with your management team and identify the biggest issues you experienced in your inventory management, from software to computer equipment. Finding the limitations in your technology is a good way to determine if purchasing a new technology is necessary, or if new procedures need to be created. For example, you can create a streamlined tracking process by investing in an automated system that utilizes barcodes and RFID tags with unique identification numbers for each inventory item. Medical staff can scan the barcodes with mobile scanners and trust the data will be stored in the system; at the same time, the automatic data capture ensures accurate reporting for charting and inventory purposes. Automated inventory management systems can also identify whether products have been recalled or damaged. By adopting a more sophisticated digital platform, you can create a more balanced, prepared environment.
5. Time to Get Lean!
No, we are not talking about the “quarantine 15” though – we can relate. We’re referring to implementing a lean strategy to generate savings and create a better understanding of your costs. Lean teams generally aim to create standardized protocols, cut waste and develop cultures of continuous improvement that allow hospitals to adapt to rapid changes in the healthcare system. But despite proven results, the majority of health systems are not using the Lean method. In 2016, Caldwell Memorial Hospital in North Carolina, for instance, reported that it saved $2.62 million over two months with a lean strategy.
We understand it’s an incredibly challenging moment in history for the healthcare community and every dollar counts.
We want to help you be more equipped for the ongoing pandemic and future challenges. The dedicated staff at RBT is here to help answer any personalized questions you have regarding the way your team is running your healthcare system.