- Just 17% of 400 hospital stakeholders recently surveyed by Cardinal Health and SERMO stated their facility used an automated inventory management platform, while 78% claimed to use a manual process, RevCycle Intelligence reported last week.
- The survey reveals hospitals' supply chain management is outdated and burdensome: 25% of respondents said they did not know if an inventory management system had ever been installed; frontline clinicians said they spend an average of 17% of their working hours on inventory management; and 59% of administrators expressed wishes to avoid the task altogether.
- While costs are the greatest obstacle to adopting better systems, the survey found automation could save hospitals over $500,000 while improving care. Improper management has led to expired or recalled products being used on patients, or a lack of appropriate supplies at critical times, putting patients at risk.
Supply chain management may be the last issue on hospital administrators' minds, but it should be the first place they look, at least according to Cardinal Health and SERMO's recent survey. After all, a focus on the supply chain could help caretakers simultaneously address the competing pressures to decrease costs and increase patient care.
Within the hospital, an automated inventory management system promises great returns in terms of time, cost and safety. Although one-third of respondents were unaware of RFID tagging, such inventory tracking tools can help store product data (most likely already available due to the advancing healthcare supply chain) which would identify whether a product has been recalled or damaged, at minimum. Storing this information in a centralized system would help ensure such products are not placed on medical carts or given to patients, at minimum.
A second basic benefit of automated inventory management is its potential to help identify drugs and devices of frequent use and spot shortages ahead of time. Once this information becomes common throughout the hospital, costs can be driven down through lean practices like more targeted purchases and reduced excess stock. Hospital procurement may also benefit from this increase in utilization data, allowing them to mitigate the costs of rising drug prices.
Of course, the first step in modernizing a hospital's supply chain is not choosing what platform will best serve your facility's needs but rather aligning all the stakeholders involved. Demonstrating the benefits of various systems will come after there is universal agreement on the need for time management, drug savings, and lean systems implementation. The survey found 64% of respondents believed financial challenges were the top priority for hospitals this year, and supply chain management may be a solution worth an investment.