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Driving Value in Hospital Supply Chain Management: A Closer Look

Supply chain shortages have made global headlines this year. But, no space is more at-risk from shortages than hospitals.

According to recent reports, supply line disruptions trapped patients in California hospitals without necessary, life-saving equipment.

Shipments of oxygen concentrators, feeding tubes, and catheters have gotten stuck en route—languishing in shipping containers while patients struggle.

Administrators can mitigate these risks with improved hospital supply chain management.

Effective management ensures clinicians have the tools they need at hand. Excellent supply chain management drives value through the hospital system as a whole. Discover how to do both with analytics and inventory management right here.

Hospital Supply Chain Management: Overview

Hospital supply chain management maintains the flow of medical goods from manufacturers and suppliers to hospitals. Effective management adapts the stream to meet the needs of clinicians and patients.

To do this well requires accurate data about:

  • Current inventory status
  • Shipping and warehousing resources
  • Present needs
  • Projected future needs
  • Manufacturer and vendor resources
  • Projections of future manufacturer output

It also requires an effective analysis of the data—one that transforms information into useful, adaptable plans. An enterprise resource planning system empowers that transformation.

What is Enterprise Resource Planning?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs automate business processes across multiple spheres.

In this case, ERP applications can take data input from multiple points of the healthcare supply chain. Then, it compiles that data to create analyses and projections.

Supply chain managers can use ERP projections to plan for diverse potential scenarios. There are two modes: traditional ERP systems and cloud-based ERP systems.

An ERP system is a key tool to drive value in supply chain management. Most strategies build on the foundation of an ERP.

Drive Value in Hospital Supply Chain Management With ERP

You can improve hospital supply chain management's efficacy in eight spheres. Each element is key to the process as a whole. With methodical intent, you can drive value in the system.

Collaborate With Clinicians, Understand Workflows

Managers must collaborate with clinicians from the start. Input from staff in the center of the fray should drive your strategy, not be an afterthought.

With collaboration, you can see how supply movement can improve to better center reliability and service—two drivers of true value to patients.

It also grants firsthand knowledge of the range of procedures and service lines in your organization. Observing clinical workflows informs data about how supplies are used.

And, it aligns purchasing and storage priorities with those of the staff most involved in treatment.

2-Bin Kanban System

One strategy to visualize clinical workflows as they happen is the 2-Bin Kanban system. This is a straightforward, visible, and tactile organizational system.

It's simple enough to maintain in a fast-paced facility. And, you can implement it at multiple points in the chain. It lets suppliers easily send the correct quantity of specific supplies to the correct place, right when they're needed.

Inventory Management: Optimize Procurement

To optimize procurement, it's wise to balance demand forecasting with point-of-care functionality.

Clinician insights should inform procurement priorities. Seemingly-similar products may vary in ways that can impact the quality of care, which may not be obvious to non-physicians.

Automation can also optimize procurement.

Automated capture for supplier invoices keeps records accurate. And, automated order placement lets clinicians keep the right amount of inventory on hand, without unnecessary clutter or expense.

Implement Accuracy Controls

Accuracy controls are critical to patient safety. Consider implementing RFID tools to gather accurate patient tracking data. This lets you map where supplies are used in the hospital.

Asset tracking options also improve accuracy. RFID sensors can prevent supply loss and theft. Simultaneously, tags inform data analysts of any gaps in the chain when supplies are on the move.

At the same time, implement programs and processes to remove expired, recalled, and obsolete products from inventory quickly. Make sure the process integrates into workflows seamlessly.

This elevates the accuracy of any at-a-glance supply assessment. It also mitigates any risk to patients from faulty products.

Improve Efficiency With Automation

Almost any process within the supply chain can be more efficient with an automated program.

Consider applications that automatically update procedure cards. Surgeons can revise and improve all relevant methods at once with a single update.

This reduces confusion and increases specificity: which exact supplies does each procedure require? Automating procedure cards makes it easier to understand what supplies clinicians across diverse categories use.

You can apply this thought throughout the supply chain. Automated data-sharing makes it easier to avoid out-of-stock situations. All departments can see the current number of units available for any product.

Optimize Inventory Management With Analytics

Use an ERP that readily integrates supply chain analytics. Effective analysis by AI will optimize inventory management throughout the supply chain.

Hospital Supply Chain Management (SCM) programs can predict and circumvent shortages. They can also compare costs and evaluate the utility of storage space for high-cost items.

Analytics programs can give you granular, each-level insights. The best options make it easy—or automatic—for each department and supplier to input accurate data.

Then, the program will output actionable insights. For instance, with analysis, you may reconsider expensive, consigned products in the operating room. The analysis gives you an evidence-based method to prioritize premium space.

Develop Single-Platform Sourcing Strategy

Strategic sourcing elevates your SCM practice value tenfold. A single-platform strategy cuts expenses and streamlines your process.

Implementing single-platform sourcing centers on the needs of stakeholders throughout departments—most critically, patients.

Suppliers are collaborators in this. Choose, evaluate, and implement a platform that enables maximum data visibility from all sources.

Strengthen Reporting Process

The best way to strengthen reporting is to make it easy—even automatic. Product scanning tools, for instance, free up time otherwise spent on manual input.

Develop reporting processes that are secure and straightforward to implement. The process should balance precision and readability. Then, make data visible.

Premium Solutions For Hospital Supply Chains

Effective hospital supply chain management can help keep patients safe downstream. Each hospital's patient population is unique. Yet, no matter the need, the solution is out there.

Whether you're in the midst of a global pandemic, or just a regular flu season, supply chain planning and true optimization ensure that you are ready to serve. Get the tools you need to solve problems before they happen.

With BlueBin, you'll have the software and methodologies to deal with the data. Reach out to us, and discover how to master the complex flow of medicine, supplies, and information at your hospital.


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