Nursing the Hospital Supply Chain Back to Health

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Oct 21, 2015
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Hospitals look for new ways to get staff to report inventory levels.

The Affordable Care Act encourages hospitals to rethink inventory management procedures. Now that the ACA reimburses hospitals based on overall performance as opposed to number of patients treated and procedures performed, many medical centers are reconsidering overhead costs and looking to streamline resource allocation.

Prior to the ACA regulations, some hospitals relied on hand counts of materials and failed to prioritize supply chain visibility, according to the New York Times. The recent legislation forces medical organizations to practice better reporting of daily activities and resource utilization. New solutions, such as barcode scanners and data integration with suppliers, help hospitals redesign inventory practices.

Wasted Resources
When organizations don't communicate inventory procedures to a central authority, dissident activities lead to wasteful behaviors. A lack of information oversight means redundancies, mistakes and inefficient activities go unnoticed.

Many experts agree the current U.S. medical industry suffers from several wasteful blind spots. Medical Recovery Service reported hospitals spend $200 billion every year on unnecessary services. A common cause of unwarranted procedures is doctors who want to make sure they do everything in their power to properly diagnose and treat patients. A lack of communication between different hospitals - or even doctors in the same hospital - creates redundant procedures, according to Inbound Logistics.

The lack of communication between different hospital departments leads to clerical and administrative waste. Needless administrative operations cost patients $190 billion every year, according to the Atlantic. Mistakes include unnecessary copying of paperwork, lost documents, inefficient communication practices and stock piles of useless medical tools.

Government regulators created the ACA in hopes of saving patients money by prompting hospitals to find new ways to deliver optimal care without rampant waste of funds and supplies. The new procedures should make hospital visits more affordable and safer for U.S. patients.

Getting Doctors and Nurses on Board
As hospitals focus on streamlining infrastructure, many organizations prioritize supply chain procedures to ensure staff members have the tools needed to carry out necessary operations without wasting money on needless stock. One problem with altering daily activities is that doctors and nurses may not consider inventory management a top priority.

Many hospitals try to stress the importance of proper inventory control to ensure compliance with new standards. Effective utilization of supplies prevents shortages. Healthcare Finance said numerous hospitals currently struggle from a lack of available drugs. By making sure hospital staff administer supplies effectively, valuable materials don't go to waste and doctors and nurses are more likely to have the tools required to perform their vital work.

Simplifying procedures can encourage staff participation in inventory management. The Times shared the example of a hospital that implemented a barcode data solution to manage inventory allocation. Every time someone took something from a supply closet, they just had to scan it and supervisors were aware of the current level. Providing mobile data collection solutions that don't interfere with daily procedures helps employees adjust to new practices.

Bringing Suppliers Into the Loop
An automated data collection solution provides visibility for all users. Doctors, nurses and administrators can see how inventory activities affect daily hospital performance. When staff members see how supply chain prioritization improves the quality of care the organization provides, it encourages them to keep up with new standards.

The more data collected by a centralized solution, the clearer the insight provided to overseers. Many hospitals want to work with suppliers and vendors to improve their supply chain visibility. Organizations should look for medical device manufacturers that operate with their own automated data collection solution so all parties are aware of what to expect from inventory deliveries.

An RFgen case study detailed how Ascent Healthcare Solutions, a medical device preprocessor, used a JD Edwards ERP inventory management solution to simplify its development process and prevent shipping errors. Ascent worked with RFgen to create a plug and play manufacturing system that prevented redundancies and reported performance to users. By simplifying the data collection solutions through automation, the company covered any holes in previous procedures and could communicate every aspect of product and supply chain performance to medical buyers.

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