From Disarray to Confidence: Cardiac Cath Lab Inventory Control

How cardiac cath labs can spend less time on managing supplies and more time with patients

January 5, 2023

How Cardiac Cath Labs are Turning to Software Solutions to Manage Inventory

A high-volume cardiac catheterization (cath) lab receives patients on an continuous basis. Specialized teams try to anticipate issues from one case to the next as they perform critical heart procedures on patients. As one nurse shared in an online video, “one thing about cath lab is, everything’s okay…and then it’s really, really not okay.”

It’s high-stress work for clinicians, but it doesn’t stop there. In many cath labs, supply chain tasks also fall to the clinical staff. Before and after cardiac procedures, nurses watch stock levels and place replenishment orders if they running low on product. Effective inventory control is essential for positive patient outcomes and a calm and orderly workplace. Unfortunately, there’s little time for non-clinical tasks in this bustling environment. As a result, cardiac cath labs are often plagued by inventory management issues.

Cardiac cath lab inventories can potentially contain thousands of products, depending on the lab’s size and procedural volumes. Cath lab clinicians utilize devices, including catheters, stents, balloons and wires, in a wide range of sizes and styles to support a variety of procedures and patients. And depending on physician preferences, products from multiple manufacturers might be in the mix. Manual inventory management leads to various problems, including overstocking, physical disorganization of inventory and poor documentation of product expiration dates.

To address these challenges, many cardiac cath labs are going to the same playbook they have used for years. They increase staff salaries and have the staff work harder. But increasingly, that’s not working. Cardiac cath lab leaders with regular staff shortages in a difficult hiring market are now considering how to accomplish supply chain tasks differently—to increase accuracy, improve quality and maximize focus on patient care.

One way cardiac cath lab leaders are changing how they manage their supply chain is by using dedicated software solutions. Although all cardiac cath labs are different, solutions that automate inventory management and address common challenges can provide them with tremendous benefits including lower costs and greater efficiencies. One such solution is Owens & Minor’s QSight, a cloud-based, inventory management solution with powerful reporting capabilities.

Inventory Visibility

Many cardiac cath labs fail to create effective perpetual inventory environments with a constant flow of incoming and utilized (outgoing) products. Although a facility’s materials management information system (MMIS) should be the source of truth for real-time catheterization lab inventory, clinicians and supply chain managers don’t always trust it.

Without solid inventory management tools, busy staff members are often challenged with maintaining optimal stock levels and organized inventory. General disorganization leads to patient safety concerns: expired products, recalled stock and inordinate levels of overstock. These practices can negatively impact patient care and staff morale. However, cardiac cath labs can avoid these situations with the right tools.

QSight’s accurate and easy-to-use product scanning capabilities take much of the manual product data entry out of clinicians’ regular cath lab inventory management. The solution, integrated with a hospital’s other critical IT solutions, virtually eliminates many common inventory visibility issues cardiac cath labs face. With QSight, clinicians in busy cath labs dealing with thousands of products can gain control.

Building Employee Morale Through Patient Focus

Post-pandemic staffing challenges have increased , especially in cardiac cath labs. Some cath labs report that 30% of their positions remain open, as special-trained staff considers other local competition or traveling jobs.

Digital inventory management solutions ease administrative work burden and improve work conditions by leveraging technology. Technology and automation can replace current problematic practices, including manual note-taking and affixing stickers to one’s clothing as reminders of what products were used during a procedure. These manual practices, along with double documentation for each patient, increase both the time a task takes and the risk of errors.

In the often high-stress cardiac cath lab, efficient tools and technology can bring order to disarray. Investing in the digitization of inventory management communicates an organization’s dedication to patient safety and a supportive workplace.

Where clinicians are struggling to maintain inventory control, technology and tools can support hospital cath lab teams experiencing a revolving-door atmosphere and varying caseloads. QSight brings certainty to this ever-changing environment.

Healthcare Waste Reduction

Panelist presentations in a September 2022 webinar on the impact of healthcare waste named cardiac cath labs as major contributors to healthcare waste levels. Panelists also noted that an increase in cardiac procedures worldwide didn’t appear to be accompanied by research or programs to surface and tackle serious waste issues.

When clinicians and supply chain staff don’t have dependable visibility to stock and are managing inventory manually, products can expire or, worse, fail to be identified in a product recall. Instead of receiving refunds for recalled products, cath labs stand the risk of monetary loss.

Cath lab waste, which can reach expense levels in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, has a significant impact on a facility’s bottom line. QSight’s proactive dashboard automatically alerts users to at-risk product 90 days prior to expiration—or notifications can be customized to a department’s desired alert date.

Insight for Cath Lab Efficiency

Researchers examining cath lab opportunities for improvement suggest that monitored quality metrics on individual procedures don’t necessarily inform managers about how to run a cost-effective cath lab. Although quality standards of care laid out by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association provide metrics on specific procedures, meeting those standards doesn’t guarantee the financial stability of the lab.

A study published in 2018 revealed that creating cost awareness among cath lab staff and empowering them to participate in financial decision-making contributed to both a reduction in the use of expensive products and a more conscious effort to double-check pulled products before starting procedures.

In order to have that cost awareness, the cath lab staff needs not just data but actionable information. That’s why QSight was built with sophisticated analysis and reporting capabilities to help reveal inventory insights and improve ongoing product monitoring and ordering. Clinicians and supply chain staff can see operational trends, product issues and opportunities for improvement via the platform’s easy-to-read reporting outlining the material costs of procedures in the lab.

Overcoming Resistance and Taking the Leap

Introducing change and transforming procedures are challenging in any healthcare setting. The cardiac cath lab is no exception. It can be challenging to change processes for managing inventory, most of which are years, if not decades old. It can be hard to introduce new technology that requires changes to the way things are done. But those changes, like introducing a new technology like QSight can not only improve patient care but also can bring relief to overworked staff. In fact, investing in smart technology contributes to a culture of employee support and can even help organizations attract and retain dedicated clinicians.

Introducing and implementing change, such as altering how a cardiac cath lab manages inventory, requires communication, training and willingness to provide support during the transition and long term. This is even more the case when introducing a new software solution like QSight. That’s why Owens & Minor’s QSight team works closely with cardiac cath labs before, during and after implementation to ensure that customers are capturing the greatest value in their use of the solution.

Making the leap to a new technology to manage inventory can be overwhelming for cardiac cath leaders. Many believe the safest and easiest way is to maintain the status quo. But all too often sticking with the status quo means realizing the same results. To make the real change in the cardiac cath lab, creating greater efficiencies and lower costs, leaders need to overcome their hesitance and make that leap.