In most industries, technological innovation helps to decrease costs over time. However, in health care, medical improvements often have the opposite effect. Facilities can offer more treatments to a much broader range of patients, but this requires managing ever-increasing stockpiles of supplies, equipment, drugs and records.
According to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
“In most hospitals and medical establishments, about 35 percent of their budgets are spent on supplies and labor to manage the inventories, material, and information flows; typically, these are managed as multiechelon systems.”
Hospital administrators who successfully manage inventory can realize substantial cost savings — both throughout the supply chain and within their individual facilities.
Below are three key areaswhere health care professionals can improve inventory management and make their facilities more efficient:
1. Digital Record Keeping
Many hospitals focus on electronic record keeping for patient files, and they can realize cost savings in the millions over a short period of time. Though don’t overlook the benefits of digitizing your inventory records as well.
Some of the main advantages include:
- Faster record retrieval. Hospital staff no longer need to hand carry each record from department to department. All inventory files become accessible through desktop interfaces.
- Greater security andprivacy. With electronic records, it’s easier to segment information on a “need-to-know” basis. Physicians and nurses only see data relevant to treatments. The billing department only has access to pertinent financial and insurance information. This segmentation is a critical component of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Improved accuracy. There are fewer redundant records within your system. Digitized formats allow for versioning history, so that files don’t contain overlapping or contradictory information.
- Fewer storage requirements. The more records that you digitize, the more physical space you free within your health care center. You can convert storage rooms into new treatment areas and service even more patients.
2. Cloud-based Inventory Management
Thanks to recent advancements in cloud storage, it’s possible to magnify the benefits of your digital record-keeping efforts.Below are some of the core advantages of moving your inventory management online:
- Better comparison-shopping. You can easily source newer and cheaper alternatives when you sync your in-house records with the cloud. Some online solutions even provide automatic price comparisons, alerting you to hidden cost-saving opportunities.
- Automated ordering. Another benefit of cloud-based inventory management is that your system can automatically place new orders or equipment inspections without your having to directly intervene. For example, the system detects that a certain medication is getting low — or a piece of equipment is due for repair. In both cases, your cloud solution makes the appropriate arrangements to keep your facility up and running.
One final benefit ofcloud-based inventory management is that you don’t have to host expensive servers on site. Again, this helps to free space and reduce costs.
3. Advanced Shelving and Storage
There may be aspects of your inventory management workflow that don’t lend themselves to digitization. For files and components that can’t be stored electronically, you should explore shelving options that help optimize space and minimize costs.
Potential solutions include:
- Stacks and retractable shelves. These collapsible storage options are similar to what you find in library basements. They expand, allowing you to store whatever items are necessary. When done, simply fold them back in to create more space within your records room.
- Portable storage solutions. Some records and equipment need to move from department to department. Ratherthan rely on static shelves, you might explore mobile options that allow you to wheel cabinets throughout your facility.
As an administrator, you may need to weigh the pros and cons of on-site versus off-site storage. There are probably files within your system that you can safely move to an external storage facility. Although there’s usually a monthly charge for this, the investment may be worth it if off-site record keeping opens new treatment areas within your facility.
One Final Health Care Inventory Management Tip
Improving inventory management is not strictly an administrative decision. You should actively solicit feedback from all relevant staff — including the doctors and nurses within your facility. The more buy-in you have, the smoother the transition will be.
Current Patterson Pope President, Denny Hammack, has more than 20 years of working in the storage industry. Patterson Pope is the industry-leading supplier of high-density shelving storage solutions, products and movable cabinet systems.