Problems in healthcare supply chains are easy to overlook
Companies and hospitals have been grappling for years with the problems of inventory management in healthcare supply chains. Unused materials tie up valuable storage space, and surplus stock, emergency “just-in-case” supplies, and shelf-life limitations exacerbate these problems.
In the healthcare industry, supply chains have become a hot topic, with materials often needed to save lives. A systematic supply chain frees up healthcare workers to focus on their patients; they know that material will be available when needed.
When developing a new inventory system for your healthcare facility, it’s important to first understand the common inventory issues. There are many different reasons why a company’s supply chain can fail, but before you begin to correct anything, you must first fully identify the problem(s). Below is a list of the main reasons why a healthcare supply chain can go wrong, followed by steps to take when trying to figure out your particular issue and create an effective inventory system.
Common inventory management mistakes in healthcare photomedicine
- Costly supplies and materials
- Costs for storage of supplies were high
- Stockouts are a common problem
- Low inventory turnover
- Large amounts of outdated supplies
- High working capital requirements
- Misleading data and errors in spreadsheets
- Supply shortages stunt business growth.
- The origin of the inventory issues is uncertain.
How to overcome the horrors of inventory management in healthcare
- List all your inventory issues
You will need to consult people from across your healthcare facility. A nurse may see different issues than the person in charge of storage, and the accounts team may be frustrated by something else entirely. Gather information from everyone involved at every link in the supply chain as you need a clear picture of all issues experienced.
- Categorize the inventory issues in order to resolve them.
When compiling a list of potential issues, you might find that your list is quite long and covers a lot of ground. Breaking it up into categories will help you better understand how issues relate to one another. For example, the inaccurate entry of data would likely impact several areas of the supply chain.
- When there is no obvious source for problems, find out the underlying cause.
When faced with problems, it is best to ask questions to determine their cause. For example, if excess amounts of unused medications are taking up space in your storage area, you should follow the supply chain and determine why exactly this is occurring.
If a problem seems to be occurring without a clear cause, it is a good idea to ask questions. For example, if too many boxes of unused medications are taking up valuable storage space, you should figure out why exactly this is occurring and how you can resolve the problem.
- The inventory issues should be prioritized.
To identify your most significant problems, you must prioritize the issues that cause the greatest loss, or the most problematic losses. For example, you may find that incorrectly located material causes a greater loss than overstocks because incorrectly located material impacts more patients and costs your organization more money. Equally, you may find that obsolete material is a problem as it ends up costing your healthcare facilities a lot of money.
Medical supply chains tend to prioritize items based on financial factors; however, saving lives takes precedence over concerns about profit. As a result, hospitals are more likely to investigate issues that could lead to better patient care.
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- To get a clear measure of their frequency, track the issues.
Before you introduce solutions to the inventory problems you’re having, it’s important to review the frequency of each occurrence. This will give you a sense of which ones are most prevalent. If you have multiple teams or locations, it is crucial that each team track its issues separately so that you can easily see which inventory problems are being resolved.
It is essential to record information about each issue in a database that allows you to track the progress of remediation. The database should include the following fields: location, product, age of the stock, the issue with stock, and details as to why the problem occurred.
- Review the existing inventory and stock records.
Fixing the issues in a supply chain requires a lot of work, which includes updating and removing expired items, as well as sorting storage so that materials are in the right places. Once this short-term tidy is complete, you can begin to consider how best to fix the underlying issues.
- Long-term solutions are more effective.
A short-term solution to tidy up inventory only solves the problem temporarily. However, if there is no change in how the supply chain is managed, it will be only a matter of time before the same problems resurface.
A long-term solution will include changes to the supply chain’s management processes, such as streamlining the approval process for purchasing new items and ensuring that electronic communications replace paper documents. In addition, technology can be introduced to increase efficiency and provide real-time data collection.
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Sangeetha brings 20 years of experience in Information Technology which includes Solution architecting, building micro services, research, and evaluation of business applications, integrating apps.