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78% of Hospital Staff Still Face Manual Supply Chain Management

Only 17 percent of hospital staff reported using an automated healthcare supply chain management solution for inventory management, a survey showed.

Survey shows that most hospitals still use manual healthcare supply chain management processes to track inventory

Source: Thinkstock

By Jacqueline Belliveau

- Hospitals may not be operating with the most efficient healthcare supply chain management tools, a recent Cardinal Health and SERMO survey found. Only 17 percent of hospital staff reported that their facility installed an automated inventory management solution, while another 78 percent said they use a manual process.

Almost one-third of the 400 hospital stakeholders surveyed also stated that their facility has not implemented a new inventory management system in six or more years. About 25 percent did not even know if a new inventory management system had ever been installed.

Hospitals may want to consider upgrading their healthcare supply chain management tools, especially since survey respondents scored their facility’s legacy inventory management systems low on benchmarking abilities and visibility into inventory.

Outdated and manual healthcare supply chain management processes also detracted from care delivery. Frontline clinicians stated they spend an average of 17 percent of their workweek managing inventory issues, accounting for about 2 hours a shift.

Providers expressed concerns that healthcare supply chain management processes subtracted from their care delivery. Approximately 65 percent of frontline clinicians said they wish they could trade supply chain management time for more patient care time.

READ MORE: Why Healthcare Needs Value-Based Supply Chain Management

Nearly two-thirds of service line leaders also stated that the top responsibility they wish they did not have to fulfill was supply chain supervision.

Even healthcare supply chain administrators voiced their dismay with existing management processes and systems. Fifty-nine percent of administrators identified supply and inventory tasks as the top duty they wish they did not have to do.

Despite using outdated healthcare supply chain management systems that detract from patient care, many hospitals have yet to invest in more automated solutions, the survey indicated.

Hospital stakeholders stated that the top three barriers to adopting automated healthcare supply chain management processes were other priorities, high cost perceptions, and increasing hospital-wide buy-in.

The survey also found that a lack of information about automated supply chain management tools prevented hospitals from implementing more efficient systems. Slightly over one-third of participants did not know about Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID).

READ MORE: How a Small Hospital Developed Lean Supply Chain Management

RFID is a common inventory tracking method, which uses bar code scanning to track items. Only 10 percent of respondents said they were familiar with RDIF technology.

“In a field like healthcare, driven by science and technological innovation, advanced inventory systems are the next frontier for improving care,” stated Scott Nelson, Cardinal Health’s Senior Vice President of Supply Chain. “Today, automated technology for the healthcare industry exists to deliver supply chain data and analytics, which can support patient safety, reduce costs and improve workflows.”

Implementing more efficient healthcare supply chain management systems and processes may be key to improving a hospital’s revenue cycle, the survey noted.

Hospitals continue to rank financial challenges as their top priority. Sixty-four percent of respondents identified financial issues as their hospital’s greatest challenge.

Staff also felt pressure from financial demands on the hospital. Approximately 54 percent of administrators identified healthcare cost management as the top method of organizational success. About 45 percent of service line leaders and 39 percent of frontline staff felt the same.

READ MORE: 3 Most Common Healthcare Supply Chain Management Challenges

When asked how their hospitals could improve their financial health, respondents agreed that automated healthcare supply chain management processes would help. Respondents estimated that more automated and data-driven tools would save the hospital more than $500,000.

In addition to improving hospital revenue cycles, survey participants indicated that more efficient healthcare supply chain management processes would also boost patient safety.

Fifty-eight percent of frontline caregivers acknowledged that inventory management is key to fostering patient safety, particularly through identifying expired items and recall alerts.

However, the survey showed that inventory management issues have already put some patients at risk. Twenty-four percent of hospital staff reported seeing or hearing about expired or recalled items being used on a patient and another 57 percent remembered a situation where a provider did not have the necessary item for a patient during a procedure.

About 18 percent of respondents knew of patient safety issues stemming from not having the appropriate supplies at the right time.

“Supply chain management is not only a key business tool, but an essential component in supporting patient safety and care,” stated Shaden Marzouk, MD, MBA, Cardinal Health’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Our survey found that many hospitals are experiencing patient safety issues that could be prevented through supply chain improvements. Ultimately, everyone at the hospital plays a role in advocating for a more efficient supply chain that will allow physicians and nurses to put their time to its best use: delivering high-quality care more effectively and efficiently.”

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