5 ways supply management matters

Keeping track of it all: How a supply management system improves patient care
By Benjamin Harris
01:23 PM

Keeping shelves stocked and enough supplies in their place is one of the most important aspects of managing any hospital department efficiently and safely. Supply management is the pipeline from whence all instruments of care flow, and if it causes more problems than it solves, a department runs a risk of wasting money or, worse, negatively affecting patient care. 

Monica Goetz, clinical nursing manager at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), says that while supply chain management is often not the first thing that comes to mind in running a critical department, but it plays a crucial part. "It's hard to keep track of stock," she says, noting that there are "some things that aren't as important as others but when you have someone who's seriously ill you want to know something is going to be there when you reach for it."

Goetz talks about five key ways that supply management can improve patient safety.

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1. Accurate stock counts. In a busy department, supply levels can fluctuate. When what's supposed to be in inventory isn't there, that "could definitely be a patient safety issue," says Goetz. "If we don't have accurate inventory and we reach for it and it's not there, it's something we can't use." The electronic system Goetz' department utilizes automatically reflects stock levels as items are ordered from the system. Staying on top of supply levels means that when something is running low and a redelivery isn't scheduled in the near future, department managers can arrange for a resupply. Goetz says with the technology her department uses, "when we push that button ... it allows us to communicate with purchasing, allows them to do off-schedule delivery."

2. Reporting. Managing supplies is a battle of par versus usage: par level being the "supposed" amount of use a product gets, versus the actual usage. Analytics can help determine the gap between these two numbers, and it can greatly improve quality of care. A reporting system built in to a supply management system allows Goetz' team to "see how often we go through [certain items] like water. Is there a better product out there that gives us a better cost savings?" The analytics that can be generated go beyond finding product replacements and keeping them in stock, too: It can influence training and how a team works. Goetz says her team can look at usage patterns and see when someone is using resources inefficiently. "We can track back to who the users are, we can look for trends," she says. "We are able to go back and say can you talk to me about this day, and that gives us an educational opportunity."