5 Steps to Better Healthcare Inventory Management and Patient Outcomes

Tetiana Prokofieva
DESIGN PROGRAM LEAD
Yevheniia Sydorova
UX PRACTICE LEADER
Daria Iaskova
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Medical inventory is a crucial component of healthcare supply chain management, an area that accounts for more than 37% of the total patient care costs. While transportation and logistics supply chains are responsible for getting products to consumers, in healthcare they play a key role in hospitals delivering quality and timely medical care to patients in need.

Developing custom inventory management software for hospitals is a way to actionably address specific procurement and supply chain management challenges that exist in large healthcare facilities, and as a result, dramatically improve patient outcomes.

In this blog post, we’ll define five essential steps needed to transform inventory management for hospitals and medical facilities and explain why it’s crucial for your business growth.

Key components and challenges of healthcare inventory management

Inventory management in healthcare embraces control over essential supply chain elements and impacts medical facilities’ internal processes. It’s a critical area for large hospital systems, where a number of healthcare facilities with their own inventories and workflows need to be controlled. 

Among the most common healthcare inventory management problems medical care providers aim to solve are:

  • consistent and timely restocking 
  • excessive utilization
  • limited data visibility
  • manual data input
  • obsolete clinical workflows
  • complicated communication with suppliers

How can healthcare facilities address these challenges, reduce process costs, and ultimately improve patient outcomes?

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Providing a real-time view of medical storage

Limited view into medicines and equipment supplies in stock is a reason for major inventory challenges—items are either missing in critical situations or not timely used and as a result, need to be disposed of. This causes healthcare facilities both financial and reputational losses.

By building end-to-end visibility into medical inventories and getting real-time updates about consumption and expiration dates, healthcare organizations can optimize inventory tracking and prevent losses. 

  • Inventory listsP
    rovide visibility into items by category and status and allow to get detailed information about medicines and medical equipment. 
  • Stock overview
    Allows healthcare staff to get a unified picture of stock supplies by departments, storerooms, and warehouses.
  • Usage tracking
    Functionality helps procurement specialists monitor the consumption of medicines and basic medical supplies like masks and cotton swabs, and timely replenish the stock.
  • Customized alerts
    Allow inventory managers to get real-time updates about items that are low in stock or will soon expire.

Leveraging a data-driven approach to consumption and restocking

Consistent inventory monitoring allows healthcare organizations to generate insights into the usage of medical supplies and build procurement assumptions based on statistical data. 

Depending on the goals a medical facility plans to achieve, collected data can help tackle excessive utilization, control costs distribution, or act as a base for advanced demand forecasting solutions.

Data analytics reinvents existing healthcare inventory management systems. Represented with a set of custom dashboards and reports, it offers healthcare executives a reliable data source that can be used to decrease maintenance costs and optimize procurement processes.

  • Quantity change analytics
    Provides inventory managers with a full picture of the number of items used within a specified time period.
  • Reporting low-in-stock items
    Helps to keep track of critical item quantities and define the best restock frequency, optimal amounts to be ordered, and set minimum inventory levels.
  • Cost distribution reports
    Provide business executives with a detailed view of costs spent on inventory items and utilization, allowing them to compare planned vs actual spending and plan future inventory budgets. 
  • Activity monitoring
    Represents a list of activities by specific warehouse, facility, or department. It allows for tracing typical actions performed by inventory workers and nursing staff within a specific time period and using this information to optimize operations and workflows.

Streamlining communication with suppliers

Order management makes a huge part in healthcare supply chain success. However, most modern inventory management software for hospitals still doesn’t have the functionality needed to automate order placement and tracking.

Although enterprise healthcare providers usually go for bulk purchasing contracts, a procurement specialist still has a lot of work to make sure a healthcare facility will timely get the necessary supplies. Finding the right distributor, checking if the necessary amount is available, agreeing on delivery times, placing an order, and monitoring its fulfillment. If anything goes wrong, it often takes hours to communicate with other vendors, re-order the necessary items, and adjust the prices (obviously not in your favor).

Introducing a built-in module with order management functionality is a way to connect inventory specialists and suppliers within healthcare inventory management software.

A digital vendor list

Contains essential data about existing vendors and allows for adding new entities. Using smart filters inventory managers can quickly decide on the best options by viewing item availability in specific regions or desired delivery terms.

Viewing order details

Allows procurement staff to easily access information about each order placed, view expected delivery dates, adjust amounts, and apply changes.

Order status monitoring

Provides a real-time view of all orders, wherever they are saved as drafts, confirmed by suppliers, or fulfilled.

Automatic order placement

Allows inventory managers to access order data and set minimum inventory levels that will automatically place orders for items (before they appear low in stock).

Optimizing healthcare facility workflows

Like any other conventional industry, healthcare undergoes digital transformation. Among the numerous challenges that exist for organizations, obsolete processes, and low digital dexterity play a key role in technology adoption. To embrace innovation and focus on quality customer care, medical facilities require a change from the inside. 
Reimagining facility workflows and leveraging intelligent automation to replace time-consuming manual processes will help decrease businesses’ operational costs and unleash hospital staff’s time for quality medical care, improving patient outcomes.

  • Assigning barcodes and RFID tags
    And scanning them using a mobile camera or dedicated device allows hospital staff to automatically update information about medical supplies or request a restock without manually inputting numbers and names.
  • Improving communication
    Between hospital staff and admin teams to make sure the former has easy access to inventory data, can easily request necessary medications, and get timely updates on healthcare supplies available in stock.
  • Moving away from spreadsheets and paper records
    To minimize human errors, standardize data formats, and ensure essential inventory data is always at hand for executives and stakeholders.

Building inventory process integrity

Aiming to provide quality patient care, healthcare organizations often try to address each inventory management issue in healthcare supply chains individually, while in reality, none of the components works in isolation. The only way to tackle healthcare inventory management challenges and improve patient outcomes is to build integrity into inventory processes and workflows.

So, how do you establish a single point of connection for all your facilities, departments, and employees and build seamless inventory management processes?

  • Make cloud enablement a part of inventory management transformation.
    Provide easy access to information whenever your teams need it, receive more space for online collaboration, and consider integrations with mobile billing and invoicing systems to streamline procurement processes.
  • Integrate order management functionality and leverage reporting and analytics tools
    To save your teams’ time by keeping them updated about the real situation in medical storerooms; prevent critical situations related to stockouts, and decrease costs spent on utilization.
  • Replace cumbersome tools, modules, and programs for supply management
    With custom inventory management software for healthcare facilities. Transform inventory workflows by digitizing records and bringing in assets for online collaboration, help employees overcome digital friction, and let them focus on what matters most—patient care.

Inventory management in healthcare goes hand in hand with the provision of quality medical services. As long as your hospital staff is busy updating information about medications used and procurement specialists spend hours on placing orders, your patients are at risk.

The implementation of an end-to-end approach to inventory tracking and automation of routine facility workflows can bring your business to the next level.

This blog post is inspired by the story of healthcare inventory management transformation made in cooperation with Trinetix. For 12 years of digital partnerships, our team has designed and fulfilled hundreds of bright product concepts in accounting, logistics, finance, healthcare, and beyond. 
If you aim to find better ways of managing hospital inventories and unleash extra hours for quality patient care— let’s chat about your next steps to effective medical supply chain management.

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