What’s the Real Impact of Supply Chain Issues?


Whether it’s a minor inconvenience or a true emergency, there’s a real cost — in time, money, and morale — every time supply chain tasks derail hospital staff. And taken in total, the expense really adds up. When supplies aren’t at hand or routine, cumbersome supply chain tasks sap energy, staff, patients, and bottom line all suffer.

In a new study, we surveyed 306 hospital supply chain stakeholders about their experiences and challenges. The respondents — a cross section of frontline clinicians, administrators, supply chain decision makers, and procedural department managers — painted a concerning picture.

Stressed Staff and Looming Burnout

In our survey, we asked respondents what problems they’ve seen in their organization due to supply chain issues. The number one answer? Frustrated clinical staff. Two out of three of respondents (67 percent) said they had seen this frustration in their organization.1

And it’s no wonder: Hunting down supplies and managing inventory every day burns time that staff simply doesn’t have. On average, frontline clinicians said they’re spending five hours a week on supply chain tasks, including manual counting, searching for supplies, and dealing with supply-related documentation. They’d prefer to cut that down to two hours. Department managers are spending nine hours per week, and they would like to be spending only four. One in four respondents (25 percent) consider supply chain tasks a necessary evil, and 20 percent say supply chain management “stresses them out.” 1

These frustrations contribute to a critical problem in healthcare organizations: burnout. In our survey, we asked respondents to name the single biggest problem facing their organization today. One in five (20 percent) named a human resource and staffing issue, like attrition and increased workload.1 A 2017 HIDA report estimated that over five years, the turnover rate would double to 68.7 percent for physicians and 62.7 percent for nurses.The HIDA report noted that job satisfaction was the primary factor in turnover. High job satisfaction depends on allowing clinicians the time and resources to do what they care most about: caring for patients.

Looking at Financial Impact

In our survey, a majority of respondents (54 percent) named a financial challenge, such as managing expenses or dealing with budget constraints, as the single biggest issue facing their organization today. Supply chain challenges certainly add to these financial pressures.1

First, dealing with supply chain issues is time-consuming. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) said manual supply chain tasks, such as physical counting or documentation, had a negative impact on their day to day productivity.1

Second, supply chain issues can lead to significant waste. When busy staff have to track supply use manually, data accuracy problems, such as capturing supply usage and tracking expirations, are inevitable. In our survey, four out of five procedural department managers (81 percent) said their organization had problems with overutilization or wasting supplies.1

The costs can really add up. According to PNC Healthcare, U.S. hospitals see $5 billion in waste each year from the high-value medical device supply chain alone, with most of the waste attributed to poor inventory management.3

A Diagnosis … And a Treatment Plan

There are a number of factors that contribute to clinicians spending too much time on supply chain tasks. More than half of respondents (54 percent) said their organization struggles with lack of product standardization, and 44 percent said their organization had problems with having too many vendor options. The storage space itself is an issue, too: 60 percent of respondents said there wasn’t adequate room in supply storage rooms, while nearly half (48 percent) said disorganized supply rooms were a problem for their organization.1

Outdated inventory systems are also a key factor. Most respondents (51 percent) said their organization struggled with too many manual inventory solutions. Only 17 percent said their organization was currently using RFID-enabled cabinets, mobile inventory solutions, or point-of-use inventory solutions.1 With manual systems, overworked staff carry the burden of keeping supplies in stock as well as tracking recalls and expirations.

Who can help? Supply chain stakeholders said they’re looking to their medical-surgical distributor to play a bigger role in addressing these issues and supporting operational efficiency in their organization. Four in five respondents (82 percent) said it was important for distributors to help them manage their supply chain, and 85 percent said they looked to their distributor to give recommendations that can be trusted and that are made with the patient in mind.1

With the help of distribution partners, healthcare organizations can adopt new systems and processes that improve supply chain efficiency, accuracy, and reliability — and they’ll see the benefits across their organization. New solutions that automate manual tasks along with available utilization data and analytics that support product standardization can help not only reduce costs, but also improve clinical workflow. A healthier supply chain supports staff, helps meet financial objectives, and supports excellent patient care.


About Cardinal Health Supply Chain Survey
This study was fielded January 16-28, 2019, 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 306 respondents total from health care organizations varying in size, specialty and practice area. Respondents included frontline clinicians (n=81), supply chain decision-makers (n=75), hospital/supply chain administrators (n=75) and department managers (n=75).

All survey data on file at Cardinal Health.

© 2019 Cardinal Health. All Rights Reserved. CARDINAL HEALTH, the Cardinal Health LOGO and ESSENTIAL TO CARE are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cardinal Health.

1Cardinal Health Supply Chain Survey Fielded January 16-28, 2019
22017 Acute Care Market Report. Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA), 2017
3PNC Healthcare; GHX quantitative research study, August 2011

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