Inventory challenges can quickly become patient complications.
In the past two years, hospitals across the globe discovered the fragility of medical supply chains. In October 2021, the World Health Organization estimated over 115,000 healthcare workers died of Covid-19.
World leaders acknowledge that PPE shortages pushed the death toll higher than it should have been. Now, healthcare teams want to fix the system. How can managers prevent harm and deaths from shortages in the future?
One of the best paths forward is through collaboration. Collaboration between healthcare teams and other links in the supply chain gives you effective, data-driven solutions.
This teamwork makes supply chains stronger and improves patient care. Read on to discover how supply chain collaboration could benefit your hospital.
In the context of medicine, the supply chain is the process that takes medicine and equipment from point A to point B.
Medical supplies flow from the manufacturer to the distributor, to the warehouse, to the supply room in a hospital. From the vantage point of the inventory manager, supply chain collaboration optimizes this flow.
Supply chain collaboration is an act of intentional cooperation. Multiple businesses in one chain work together to strengthen and streamline processes, in a way that ensures benefit for all involved.
There are two types of collaboration: horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal collaboration enables organizations at the same stage to share resources and infrastructure. This optimizes ROI by reducing the burden of supply costs on each organization.
For example, in one study, multiple medical practices in a city (hospitals, nursing homes, home care groups) chose to collaborate.
Three municipal healthcare organizations coordinated to allocate shared nursing care services and medical supplies. This saved money, and it resulted in more consistent care for elderly patients. Nurses in the study approved.
Vertical collaboration is an intentional, positive partnership among organizations in different stages of the supply chain. A hospital, vendor, and manufacturer may choose to work together for the long term.
As you read on, understand that this article mostly describes the benefits of vertical collaboration. That said, both vertical and horizontal collaboration offer similar upsides to healthcare teams.
Streamlining supply chains increased shortage risks to a dangerous degree. Yet, it was done to optimize service.
With supply chain collaboration, hospital teams can maintain or improve care while keeping critical supplies in stock. Cooperative supply chain management has five key benefits.
Collaboration mitigates shortage risk and reduces out-of-stocks. Collaboration enhances routine, intentional communication. This way, suppliers know what items will be necessary, sooner.
Collaborative supply chains are transparent. This enables effective troubleshooting if supplies are late or missing, so teams can discover and fix any bottlenecks.
Supply chain collaboration incentivizes all involved to develop strong partnerships. As organizations collaborate well, each retains reputable partners long-term.
This lets each organization implement analytics based on observable patterns—which, in turn, lets each organization in the chain predict and prevent shortages with increasing accuracy.
Collaboration builds long-term resilience. Organizations can choose partners with sustainable, ethical production practices. Maintaining sustainability standards improves medical supply production in the long run.
Collaborative supply chain management reduces medical errors.
Medical errors harm roughly 400,000 patients each year. There are multiple underlying reasons for errors.
For instance, clinicians may commit medical device use errors when they work with versions of devices they're less familiar with. Erroneous blood test results happen more often when the administrator is untrained in the model of the test.
Errors also stem from using expired substances. Outdated, hazardous equipment, like needles without safety mechanisms, increases the risk of needlestick errors.
Finally, clinicians can err by miscommunicating in patient records. Manual entries into patient records increase the risk of mixed-up, unreadable, or incorrect information.
Hospital supply chain collaboration reduces errors by improving safety and quality control measures. Collaboratively-developed measures can keep shoddy or fast-expiring supplies out of the stockroom.
At the same time, collaboration elevates communication. Suppliers can clarify the correct use for novel devices, and clinicians can order preferred products with more notice.
Moreover, automated tools for hospital inventory management, like barcode scanners, reduce patient record errors. Barcode systems streamline communication about inventory to all parties in the chain.
Data is automatic, accurate, and linked to patients when needed.
Together, these features of supply chain management keep patients safer.
Collaboration creates consistency. The flow of supplies moves in harmony with workflows.
Inconsistencies develop when clinicians must carve time out of care work to manually input supply information. Going with the flow makes it easier.
Fortunately, developers built automated inventory analytics software to work with workflows. With automated analytics software, you spend less time on re-orders. And, you waste less money dumping expired supplies.
Building communication into the workflow builds trust. This, in turn, builds long-term partnerships.
As partners get to know one another, it becomes easier to communicate. With less time spent clarifying what's needed, hospital teams can spend more time on clinical work.
Hospital supply chain collaboration improves how each partnered organization uses data. Data sharing empowers supply chain analytics. Collaboration pushes organizations to make data readily visible and available.
Relationships with supply chain partners incentivize system implementation. The 2-Bin Kanban system is a method of direct, quantitative communication about medical supplies.
This gets rid of the guesswork. Everyone involved knows what moves and what doesn't from staff in the OR. It's clear what expires and what needs to be restocked.
In the same vein, hospital teams know their inventory options months from now, because they have information directly from manufacturers. This lets teams plan ahead. You're prepared for potential substitutions and supply gaps.
At the end of the day, collaboration does not merely improve the relationship among organizations. It also strengthens the trust patients have in a hospital.
Supply chain collaboration improves the timeliness of treatment. It ensures patients get safe care with effective tools. And it shows patients the ethics of sustainability and quality inherent in your service.
Are your healthcare teams ready to solve their supply chain problems? We can help.
BlueBin's software empowers streamlined, data-driven inventory management. And, our consultants have developed custom solutions for hospitals nationwide. Talk to us, and the BlueBin experts will help you discover what your teams need to solve their problems.