3 tips to utilize the Internet of Things (IoT) in the healthcare supply chain

With the novelty of the Internet now considered the norm, we must place a greater focus on how to thrive in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT).

This modern era of technology, which consists of increased, virtual communication among machines, is paving the way to completely transform healthcare as we know it. Our industry is becoming smarter and more efficient with every new technology breakthrough, and we must continually seek ways to utilize the IoT capabilities to reduce waste in the supply chain.

The scope of current inefficiency in the medical devices market, for example, is staggering. These devices alone contribute to an estimated $5 billion1 in waste annually. There are many other sources of waste including excess inventory, product loss, expired products, revenue leakage at the point of charge capture, and unnecessary shipping costs caused by poor inventory tracking and planning.

As cost pressures in the healthcare industry reach new extremes, the need to eliminate waste in the supply chain is critical. Consider these 3 tips to apply the IoT approach and take advantage of advanced technologies that will help promote efficiency in your hospital’s supply chain.

1. Develop a holistic view of your supply chain, all the way from sourcing to storage.

Tip #1: Leverage IoT technologies to enable cloud-based, system-wide inventory management with data analytics to connect products and processes with their true cost.

The healthcare supply chain is no longer just about manufacturing, distributing, and transporting products. In order to properly evaluate the value chain, it must be viewed holistically, encompassing both direct and indirect costs. This caliber of system-wide valuation demands data and lots of it – data that can be collected, aggregated, visualized and acted upon.

2. Invest in technology to improve the “user experience” for clinical staff.

Tip #2: Use the IoT’s connectivity and data-sharing capabilities to free the frontline staff from inventory-related burdens.

According to a recent survey, 26% of OR surgeons and nurses report too much paperwork as the most stressful part of their job, while another 23% said not having enough time for patients due to supply chain management tasks is most stressful.2 Fortunately, there are advanced product-tracking technologies and automated systems that can help to alleviate these stresses and get clinicians back to their patients.

3. Adopt automated technologies to improve accuracy, speed, and spend.

Tip #3: The healthcare supply chain is a strategic asset that can yield large financial savings, and the IoT is key to propelling change.

Surgeons and OR nurses have a big stake in moving to automated inventory systems and agree it is time for a change. In fact, 77% said they would like more input into inventory management decisions and 42% agree that “saving money helps us all”.2 These clinicians see the benefits of automation – properly balancing inventory levels to match usage patterns, reducing and properly managing product expirations, freeing up capital, and reducing patient risk are just a few ways automation can improve the speed and accuracy of supply chain management. Data gleaned from IoT connectivity is also enabling proper management of consignment, accurate clinical documentation, and product and workflow standardization across entire enterprises.

About Cardinal Health Hospital Supply Chain Survey
This study was fielded Nov. 2 - Nov. 15, 2017, using an online survey methodology. The samples were drawn from SERMO’s Online Respondent Panel of Health Care Providers, which includes over 600,000 medical professionals in the United States. The study included 305 respondents total from health care organizations varying in size, specialty and practice area. Respondents included frontline clinicians (n=128), operating room supply chain decision-makers (n=100), and hospital/supply chain administrators (n=77). All survey data is on file at Cardinal Health.

1PNC Healthcare; GHX quantitative research study (August 2011)
2Cardinal Health Operating Room Supply Chain Survey Fielded Nov. 2-Nov. 15, 2017

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