Inventory Management Poses Challenges for Healthcare Providers

April 5, 2022

With the mounting attention on reducing costs and improving outcomes in today’s healthcare market, providers are feeling the pressure. Savvy healthcare providers realize the importance of appropriately managing their inventory of medical and surgical supplies. Precise inventory management can have far-reaching benefits, not just on a hospital system’s bottom line, but also on supporting efficiency and safety throughout every step of the care journey.

Supply chain management is a specialized function that can directly affect both the organization’s spending and its ability to quickly and accurately track essential product safety information. In other words, effective control and management of medical and surgical supplies improves the delivery of healthcare services, patient care, and the provider’s financial performance. Owens & Minor can be an important partner in helping hospitals achieve these positive outcomes.

Historically, inventory management was not really viewed as a critical function—to have a whole process for managing sutures, for example, was an innovative idea. Traditionally, the focus was solely on the patient and patient care. However, the advancement of healthcare services and medical products has changed that, putting more focus on life-saving products, high-tech implants, and even organ transplants.

“Timing is everything when it comes to operating room inventory,” said Angela McNally, Vice President, Products and Healthcare Services, South at Owens & Minor. “Minutes matter in the OR, and clinicians don’t want to be slowed down by manual processes or inefficient tracking systems.”

In many hospitals, the environment for the operating room or perioperative care is an area of significant waste and inefficiency, and for a number of reasons. The supplies for perioperative care include everything from the preparation for surgery, the surgery itself, and then to what is used to stabilize the patient in the recovery room.

“Ensuring you have the right supply requires a delicate balance, providers don’t want to run short on essential items, but over-ordering can ultimately be just as damaging as under-ordering.”
-Angela McNally, Vice President, Products and Healthcare Services, South

Oftentimes, operating supply storage is not a controlled environment. There may be multiple operating room suites directly connected to a single supply room, and there may be 25 clinicians using the same supply room on any given day. They may not always have the ability or the time to scan the whole room and do a thorough check of inventory availability or to check product expiration dates. Very few hospitals can manage a perpetual inventory for these suites—knowing every single time something goes into or out of inventory.

“For busy clinicians and hospital team members, manually tracking such fluid data becomes virtually impossible at a certain point,” continued McNally. “When we implement a technology solution for a customer, we’re taking away that burden, enabling them to simply scan each piece of inventory and immediately view all of the product information they need to make informed care decisions.”

Owens & Minor takes a comprehensive approach to inventory management, leveraging tailored combinations of technology solutions and expert consultation to streamline processes, increase visibility, and reduce manual tasks, resulting in cost and staffing efficiencies within acute care settings.

“Every hospital has their own unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to inventory management,” said McNally. “Our team at Owens & Minor takes pride in taking the burden off of busy providers and offering a specific path forward that alleviates stress, increases efficiency, and saves on cost across the board.”

Although inventory management is now a consistent area of focus across the industry, time and resources remain limited. Choosing a partner like Owens & Minor can help transform inventory to support a more resilient supply management process that benefits hospitals, providers, and the communities they serve.