Clinical accessories play a critical role in improving the performance of medical equipment and ensuring that patients have safe and positive hospital visits. Unlike many kinds of medical equipment, however, these accessories typically require frequent replacement, which can complicate inventory management. Adopting effective and efficient practices can make it easier to adapt existing inventory management workflow to new accessories.
The Value of Effective Healthcare Inventory Tracking
Because clinical accessories undergo repeated use—sometimes for multiple patients over the course of several days — it is critical to know how many are on hand at any given time. The COVID-19 pandemic has had lasting repercussions for the healthcare supply chain: 99% of healthcare facilities reported that they had experienced challenges in supply procurement. Ongoing supply chain issues ranging from shortages of raw manufacturing materials to surges in demand that outpaced supply may make it difficult for healthcare facilities to procure the accessories they need as quickly or easily as they once did. The resulting dearth can be detrimental for patients, prolonging the use of accessories that are unable to perform certain tasks because the necessary accessories are unavailable.
Failing to track inventory properly can also become costly. If materials managers are unaware of how much inventory they have, they run the risk of failing to use accessories before their expiration date, forcing them to discard unused equipment and buy more. Given the size of an entire facility, these costs could grow rapidly.
Employing a workflow that tracks the life cycle of clinical accessories from initial purchase to use and disposal can save time and frustration. Solid inventory management can also help managers remain in compliance with bulk purchasing contracts. In addition, proper tracking can prevent theft by giving managers insight into how much inventory they have on hand at all times.
Best Practices for Inventory Management
At its core, inventory management boils down to having the right quantity of inventory at the right time and cost. To make this happen, managers need to be able to gauge their supply levels, track the cost of supplies, and anticipate when to reorder. That requires forethought and planning.
Healthcare inventory management may be periodic or ongoing. Periodic inventory requires materials managers to update inventory data manually at certain intervals, such as once a month or once per quarter. This may be manageable for smaller facilities, but it's not ideal for large facilities or health systems.
Perpetual inventory, on the other hand, updates continually and automatically. Perpetual inventory management software tracks inventory changes in real time and immediately reports purchases, stock changes, and more. Although this method may cost more than periodic inventory management strategies, it could be a better option for larger facilities.
One way to enable perpetual inventory management is by leaning on digital automation. Automating inventory management can reduce supply overstocks and help make better use of storage space. It can also show which supplies are nearing or at their expiration date, giving materials managers real-time insight into inventories and providing information about lead times so they can plan accordingly.
No matter the size of the facility, materials managers can take practical steps to implement or revamp their clinical accessories inventory management.
Organize Your Inventory
It may seem like common sense, but organizing a facility's inventory of current clinical accessories is fundamental to helping materials managers determine what they need more of and when. This can help reduce the risk of ordering redundant supplies, keep costs down, and ensure there is ample storage space available when ordering new supplies.
Organizing accessories in the supply room by most used to least used can also be beneficial. This cuts down on the amount of time required to search for supplies that are used on a regular basis. Additionally, supplies with the nearest expiration dates should have a place at the front so they can be used first.
Analyze Usage and Order Frequency
Replacements for certain accessories, such as disposable ones and those that come into direct contact with patients, should be ordered more often. Materials managers should also make sure to order supplies based on how often the facility will use those supplies in a given time frame. It is important to have a general understanding of the usage versus order frequency ratio—there may be peak periods, such as flu season, and some departments may also use certain supplies more frequently than others. Keep these patterns in mind when envisioning an organisation's plan. Data gathered via automated inventory management can also highlight trends surrounding when supplies are high or low.
Streamline Your Shopping Experience
Working with a clinical accessories vendor can make or break inventory management. Healthcare facilities need to know that vendors will not only have the supplies they need when they need them but that the procurement process will be seamless. This means, for instance, that facilities can order or reorder supplies with just a few clicks or a quick phone call. The right vendor will also offer assistance to support integrating accessories into existing inventory management systems.
Vendors such as GE HealthCare work with healthcare facilities to provide an optimal shopping experience. The Service Shop is a one-stop solution for clinical accessories needs specific to the healthcare facility. With real-time inventory, order and tracking notifications, and contract pricing, materials managers can get the supplies they need in just a few clicks.