Fixing the failure to communicate: inventory management systems close the gap between EHR and ERP

The technology systems that hospitals use to deliver quality care as efficiently as possible are critical to operations. But those systems have different objectives and often don't integrate with or talk to one another, leading to waste and inefficiency in supply chain and inventory management. 

In a November webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by GHX-Syft, three panelists shared insights into how those siloed systems are detrimental to operations and patient care, and discussed the benefits of an inventory management system that can connect them. Panelists were:

  • Michael Bishop, senior vice president of provider sales, GHX 
  • Lee Smith, DHA, MBA, BSN, RNFA, chief nursing officer, GHX-Syft
  • Col. Francisco C. Dominicci (ret.), MS, MA, RN-BC, former chief of the Defense Health Agency's Solution Delivery Division; senior vice president, B.E.A.T. LLC

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Siloed technology systems with different objectives often share only minimal data. These siloed systems create inefficiencies. The data and communication gap between administrative systems like enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) and clinical systems like electronic health records (EHR) stand out even more in hospitals' most critical workspaces, like the operating room. "The challenge is that they don't always talk to each other, especially when you're loading information into the EHR," Dr. Smith said. 
  1. That can have a big impact, which includes waste, the potential for lost inventory and more work for staff. Even systems that are proficient at capturing data typically have data-sharing limitations. That means missed charge capture, lost inventory, higher waste and burdensome manual data entry for staff members. Daily or batch EHR uploads help, Dr. Smith said, but it "only includes those things that are in the item master. Anything that's outside the item master still requires the clinicians to document it back in, which creates more work for accounts payable, the ERP staff and those people who are doing billing and auditing."
  1. This inefficiency becomes very clear during emergencies. When the pandemic struck, Col. Dominicci, who oversaw software solutions and integrations for the Defense Health Agency, was put in charge of ensuring the agency was appropriately connected with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services to communicate levels of critical supplies, such as N-95 masks and gowns. It took the Veteran's Administration 34 days to tally their materials, he said. "That's a problem. When an emergency happens, you truly need to know what's going on."
  1. The solution lies in inventory management systems, which the consumer sector has long relied on. An inventory management system functions as middleware between the EHR and ERP, documenting consumption and usage for items including those that are outside of the ERP system. "It's sophisticated and automates and streamlines the procurement process, but it also shows where things are — on the loading dock, in a warehouse," Mr. Bishop said. And while healthcare's needs are different, of course, the gaps left by siloed software solutions need to be filled, as illustrated by the pandemic. "We need to know what we are going to get and when we are going to get it," he said. 

The pandemic illustrated the need for healthcare organizations to have better control of their inventories so they aren't caught without critical supplies. An inventory management system like that offered by GHX-Syft can fill the gaps.

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