How an effective OR supply chain strategy can keep hospitals ahead of the shifting cost curve

The shifting healthcare cost curve is pressuring providers to reduce costs and improve quality.

As expenses grow and revenue drops, progressive health systems are looking to their supply chain processes to help drive out waste and improve patient safety — especially in the operating room.

In an April 24th webinar sponsored by Cardinal Health and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, Carola Endicott, vice president of product strategy for Cardinal Health, and Jeffrey Porubcansky, Cardinal Health's vice president of supply chain operations, discussed how automating supply chain processes can help providers reduce costs and improve clinical outcomes in perioperative areas.

Inefficient supply chain processes in the OR can be detrimental to patient safety and a provider's bottom line, explained Ms. Endicott.

In an online survey of OR clinicians and supply chain decision-makers in November 2017 by Cardinal Health, 40 percent of 300-plus respondents reported canceling a surgery due to medical supplies. Sixty-nine percent reported rescheduling a surgery for the same reason, and 27 percent said they'd seen or heard of an expired product used on a patient during surgery. Additionally, 23 percent of respondents said they'd seen or heard of a patient being harmed due to missing supplies.

"Case delays have an impact on patient care and financial outcomes," Ms. Endicott said. "Clearly this is something we have to get our arms around."

While providers are aware of safety and financial challenges in the OR, few have deployed more effective supply chain processes because staff are often distrustful of cost reduction efforts, and providers have limited budgets for supply chain optimization.

However, it is possible to generate OR staff buy-in to supply chain improvement through a focus on people, process and technology, explained Mr. Porubcansky.  

"We need to allow clinicians to return to the top of their licensure and take care of patients, we need to remove them from non-clinical tasks such as supply management," Mr. Porubcansky said.

Automating inventory management

Providers can streamline supply chain management in the OR by automating inventory management so clinicians and supply chain personnel have access to accurate, real-time data.  

"We need an automated, simple way to track products from the time they come in to the time they are used," Ms. Endicott said.

There are several types of tracking tools, including smart cabinets equipped with radio-frequency identification technology, mobile RFIDs, Kanban and barcode technology, which should be assessed based on the type of supply and use case you are trying to solve for. Facilitating utilization (charge capture) documentation at the point-of-use (not dispense) drives actionable insights into strategic initiatives around cost savings, explained Mr. Porubcansky.

"We have a massive amount of data in the materials management information system, the clinical system and the EMR … but we must create interoperability through these systems … to capture data with ease while driving accuracy and consistency in all these disparate systems" Mr. Porubcansky said.

Overall, optimizing the supply chain can generate a multifaceted return on investment. By automating supply processes in the OR, supply chain leaders can ensure product availability to avoid case cancellations and adverse events and allot providers more time to focus on patient care. Further, automated technology can prevent write-offs from expired products, facilitate more strategic bulk buys, reduce overstocked supply rooms and improve physical space capacity to drive cost savings.

To learn more about automating inventory management listen to the webinar here. To learn more about Cardinal Health click here.

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