Hospitals are beehives of activity – doctors administering medications to patients, nurses moving and adjusting equipment, and pharmacists ensuring proper drug supply. It is no wonder inventory management in a healthcare institution can be overwhelming with the sheer number of items to be tracked, replenished, and disposed of. There is also added pressure to reduce costs while providing the highest level of patient care no matter the situation. Hospital administrators do carry a heavy burden in ensuring everything is in working order. Here are a few tips to help streamline your inventory management.

Identify supply levels needed to sustain operations

Military strategist Sun Tzu famously said, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” Therefore, understanding your hospital’s supply chain and demand is vital to keep operations running and adjust accordingly during emergencies. The frequency of replenishment can be tweaked to have the correct inventory level in strategic places at the right times. It is also advisable to tailor fit your inventory system based on the clinical processes of each room – emergency rooms need a visible “grab-and-go” approach while pharmacies place importance on keeping track of drug expiry dates.

Use laser marking for stainless steel tools and other materials

Marking barcodes on the back of every hospital asset makes it easier to locate in the storeroom and trace their succeeding whereabouts. These unique identification numbers reduce the risks of theft and misplacement of tools and equipment, especially during busy hours. Other useful data can be attached to the barcode, such as expiration, stock level, and unique storage requirements. Stainless steel materials with laser marking are also more hygienic and durable as compared to old school barcode sticker labels.

Implement a 2-bin Kanban system

Kanban is a visual method for managing workflow, inventory, and supply chains originating in the manufacturing industry. Hospitals can make use of the 2-bin Kanban system where two physical bins placed front-to-back are utilized to manage inventory. Items are picked from the first bin, and then once empty placed on the top shelf for replenishment. The second bin slides down to the position of the original until the items it holds run out while the restocked first bin is placed at the back. The bins rotate, never running out, and quickly alert the staff when refills are needed. This system lessens instances of stock-outs, idle inventory, and requests for out-of-stock items.

Invest in automated inventory control software

Switching to a computerized inventory management system is an investment every hospital should consider. The technology can streamline repetitive tasks and store pertinent information for future reference, freeing up time usually spent by clinicians managing inventory to taking care of their patients. The International Journal of Health Geographics advocates for the use of real-time locating systems to locate portable equipment, find staff quickly and improve workflow.

Ensure regular audits for safety and hygiene

hospital inventory

Healthcare demands strict regulations and protocols about safety and hygiene, given the high cost of negligence to human lives. Infection and bacteria can spread quickly through unclean and old medical instruments. You also don’t want equipment to break down in the middle of a critical clinical procedure. Scheduling regular audits and maintenance routines can ensure your hospital is always in top shape.

Following the tips listed can help your hospital manage its inventory efficiently and smoothly. Patients are better cared for when personnel doesn’t have to worry about supply issues, missing equipment, and expired stocks.

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