How Important is Inventory Control in Healthcare Facilities?
Inventory control may seem like a low priority within the many complex needs of a healthcare facility. But consider that inventory control can impact:
- Facility operating costs
- Staff comfort, productivity, and peace of mind
- Patients’ overall impression of a facility
When these are taken into account, it becomes apparent that well-managed and executed inventory control (of everything from scrubs to bed linens to hospital curtains) is a vital element of a positively received and operating healthcare organization.
The Case for Proper Inventory Management
Healthcare facilities often face an uphill battle when it comes to medical linen inventory management.
From the smallest clinic to the largest hospital, it’s crucial to have inventory records that are managed as precisely as possible, to ensure, for example, that staff have a fresh pair of scrubs ready for them without having to think about it, or that the exact right amount of patient gowns are available. Too few clean sheets and you have a sanitation and patient experience problem, too much and you are paying for and storing items you don’t need.
Proper inventory control, then, maintains an ideal balance.
With the advent of the novel coronavirus, these needs have become even more emphasized, converting inventory control into one of the most crucial aspects of healthcare operation, especially when you’re trying to maintain proper levels of physical personal protective equipment (PPE) and pharmaceuticals.
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The Full Range of Hospital Administration Difficulties
Between PPE, scrubs, and bed linen lies a whole swathe of inventory concerns. Loss of surgical equipment, tracking expiration dates on pharmaceuticals, sorting medicines, changing curtains — all of these are equally important to your staff, your patients, and whether your healthcare facility presents a positive impression. Likewise, generating bills and creating reports based on hospital activity all need high levels of attention to detail.
It is for these reasons and more that inventory control is invaluable to every aspect of a healthcare facility. An efficient inventory control program can:
- Inform you when you have an anticipated shortage of certain pharmaceuticals and when you’ll need to dispose of expiring ones
- Track your surgical equipment, medical devices, and other assets efficiently
- Ensure that your staff always has a fresh, laundered pair of scrubs
- Reduce costs on unneeded items
- Help prevent the spread of infection
- Keep staff focused on what matters most: their patients
How Does Inventory Management Help with Cost Savings?
Inventory management directly impacts a healthcare facility’s bottom line. Fluctuating monthly bills and unpredictability when it comes to inventory can quickly and needlessly inflate expenses.
A fully managed inventory program avoids this. As an example, ImageFIRST provides a solution to this problem by working with healthcare facilities to create a plan that is both predictable and yet flexible when necessary. Here’s what that means:
A dedicated Customer Advocate works to understand a facility’s needs based on patient volume and ensures an ever-flowing inventory of exactly what is needed, is there for your facility.
If there is a sudden influx of patients or if needs change for any reason, a trusted linen provider, such as ImageFIRST, acts immediately to deliver.
The Best of Both Options
This process ensures protection from cost over-extension yet mitigates risk by being ready to supply more at any moment.
With this approach, you never worry that you won’t have enough gowns or linens to properly care for your patients or that you will receive an unexpectedly high monthly bill. ImageFIRST is completely transparent. Pay for what you need. Pay for what is at your facility. No games, no complex pricing.
Tips for Instituting Inventory Control Measures
There are multiple ways to institute inventory control measures at your healthcare facility. The first is to engage in inventory control directly. Facilities can establish an entire division or department to keep detailed records of inventory, often aided by inventory management software. This option keeps everything in-house but requires high levels of resources to devote to such an endeavor, including hiring expert personnel or training existing staff.
In the event that this may not be feasible, either wholly or in part, healthcare facilities may choose to outsource their inventory control needs to third parties. This can take the form of an inventory management company that oversees the entirety of the facility, or it can be through specific partners that specialize in single aspects of the facility.
An outside partner is often the most efficient and cost-effective way to handle linen inventory management, as the savings of only paying for what is needed can help mitigate any service costs. This also ensures that the time-consuming effort of actually managing linen and items (not to mention ensuring they are properly cleaned and sanitized) is off you and your staff’s plates, freeing everyone up to focus on other needs.
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The Importance of Healthcare Inventory Control
In the end, it’s not only important that you choose the right partners for inventory management, but also that you choose vendors that will add to the overall workplace culture and peace of mind.
An investment in inventory management is an investment in the well-being and confidence of your staff. Your team should know that they will always have the supplies they need to perform their jobs at the highest level. A happy, confident staff can have a greater impact on patient experience than anything else.
Healthcare facilities need to have access to precise and accurate information on all aspects of their inventory. From pharmaceuticals and medical devices to the number of clean hospital beds and how many disposable spoons are left in the cafeteria, all of this data needs to be available to ensure hospitals aren’t caught unawares by an inventory shortage.
Look for partners that leverage technology to aid you in having access to accurate inventory readings. For example, ImageFIRST tags all their scrubs and lab coats with safe and proven UHF RFID chip technology, to give you automated tracking, staff accountability, and inventory tracking. ImageFIRST also uses the ScrubVAULT system, a scrub management system that secures the scrubs and tracks which staff member took what.
As the current post-COVID age has shown us mercilessly time and again, the lack of PPE, a single respirator unit, or even sanitized linens could spell the difference between patients receiving the care they need or not. Inventory control protects you, your facility, and your patients. Make sure you choose the right inventory control partner to fit your unique needs.