Inventory Management Issues in Hospital Supply Chain

Many Americans assume that hospitals achieved large profits in 2020 due to their high capacity. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancelations of elective and non-surgical procedures. This caused the median operating margin to drop by 55.6 percent without federal aid.

The healthcare industry had to make significant budget cuts. Hospitals had to quickly find ways to continue patient care with lower budgets, and fewer resources. Inventory management issues also created a significant strain on the clinical staff caring for patients.

Today there are innovative solutions to help within the healthcare supply chain arena. What are some of the options and how they can help your facility?

COVID’s Negative Impact on Healthcare Supply Chain

Healthcare supply chains suffered while trying to keep up with patients' needs. Forced business shutdowns due to quarantine halted production of numerous and vital medical supplies.

Hospitals' decreased revenue made it difficult to uphold vendor contracts as well. The uncertain future affected distributor management. Some manufacturers changed production plans to try and meet the world’s need for PPE.

All this was happening as hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID patients. Facilities struggled to get enough PPE for their frontline staff.

In mid-2021, we are seeing hospitals return to more normal operations. Yet, in some areas, the supply chain is still in recovery.

Healthcare leaders understand that they must rely on data from trusted suppliers. Without accurate information, hospitals cannot guarantee essential supply availability. Making the effort for clinicians difficult and directly impacting patient care.

Addressing Inventory Management Issues

Healthcare facilities must find reliable avenues to ensure short- and long-term supply management effectiveness and success. This includes optimizing supply due to demand and if needed keeping a stocked inventory that is well–tracked, sustaining PPE such as gloves, gowns, masks, face shields, respirators, and disinfectants.

Corporations and even consumers rose to the challenge and bolstered the supply chain. Hospital leaders procured critical supplies from sources outside of their usual partners.

The pandemic exposed the risks and weaknesses in the global healthcare supply chain. It also brought the roles and complexities of the involved players to light.

Now, healthcare facilities are taking new approaches to prevent future supply chain crises. The following describes some of the processes and tools they’re putting in place.

Conservation of Supplies

The healthcare staff should meet and review the product shortages and allocation problems. Provided they have visibility and transparency to the data, they can use this information to revise policies and address new approaches to supply utilization. They can identify optional products and ways to shift and allocate needed supplies.

It’s key to search for surpluses of supplies in the vendor or provider community. Consider the option of reusing, re-sterilizing, or reprocessing PPE and other supplies.

Refine Inventory Management

New information technology (IT) solutions are now available to optimize inventory management. One study found that 37 percent of facilities use artificial intelligence (AI). Companies with AI, or even better, predictive analytics, report significant improvements in their supply chain.

AI and/or predictive analytic reporting increases staff productivity and inventory management. It also improves the vendor selection process as well as the customer experience. The AI system uses algorithms to improve organizations' sales and purchasing performance.

Machine learning (ML) improves operational workflow. It ensures that AI apps complete their functions. This also improves accuracy while preventing privacy violations and demographic biases.

These AI and ML systems are more agile to reduce inventory disruptions. The goal is to avoid a repeat of last year's supply shortages and prolonged shipping times.

Reliable Distribution

The inventory management process needs to include metrics that reflect the supplier's performance. Examples include accuracy, fill rates, excess shipping costs, and inventory levels.

The system needs to measure your current or future allocation in relation to your demand. It should also verify and ensure the availability of emergency supplies. This helps guide you in making future product decisions.

Supplier Representative Communication

To prevent a disruption in the supply chain flow, there must be open communication. The account executive or sales representative must understand your critical needs. Valuable supply leaders monitor inventories and help identify alternate sources when needed.

Maintaining a strong supply chain involves several factors. These include intentional product allocation, inventory management, and product conservation. All parties must take a proactive approach to achieve optimum efficiency. BlueQ Analytics is BlueBin’s solution to replenishment driven by true nursing and patient demand, providing the predictive analytics and inventory management tools to ensure proactive relationships that drive strategic policy decisions.

BlueQ Analytics

A leading healthcare supply chain analytic and inventory intelligence solution is BlueQ Analytics. The product offers the critical data you need to make smart decisions. You gain a competitive advantage by having access to the latest data.

The robust analytics allow you to maintain your supply inventory efficiently and reliably. This product provides spending management reports to efficiently guide the allocation of resources. Your hospital will have what it needs to care for patients and families.

BlueQ SmartScan offers functionality beyond that of the standard handheld ERPs. SmartScan uses Kanban or Par Cart processes to improve your supply chain management.

Ways to Protect Your Healthcare Supply Chain

There are several actions you can take to protect your supply chain. Consider the following suggestions.

  • Choose a hospital supply company with years of experience and visible achievements
  • Integrate AI/ML or predictive analytics into your system to enrich data-based decision making
  • Proactively identify secondary and tertiary suppliers in the event of a disruption
  • Develop a team culture that embraces change and can adapt as needed
  • Develop relationships between front-line workers and supply managers

These tasks create an environment that’s prepared to identify and respond proactively. This reduces your chances of finding yourself in a supply chain crisis.

Are You Looking for Help with Your Supply Chain Management?

Selecting the right solution can solve your inventory management issues. BlueBin Kanban offers a visual replenishment system. This ensures the delivery of supplies to the right place. You'll also get the correct quantity at the right time.

We offer BlueBelt training and certifications programs. This allows facilities to implement the Kanban system themselves. Your internal engineers will have the tools to meet the BlueBin system build standards.

Our team wants to help you achieve your strategic vision. Contact us today to learn more about our solutions.

Contact us about COVID & PPE supply dashboards

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