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Inventory Management Concerns In The Healthcare Industry

A symbol of health and the globe on the virtual screen. The healthcare industry, from clinics to labs and family practices to hospitals, use a vast amount of specialized equipment, materials, and medications to serve patients. In order to store and organize these medical supplies, efficient inventory management practices are vital. If inventory isn’t tracked, it doesn’t only adversely impact organizational operations, causing staff to spend way too much time to find inventory.  It could risk lives if certain items aren’t accessible at the point of need. [Tweet "It could risk lives if certain items aren’t accessible at the point of need."] But when hospitals constantly deal with rising costs, increased customer demands, and under staffing, inventory management, to say the least, is not considered mission critical.  However, there are four important reasons the healthcare industry must adopt automated inventory management systems.

Inventory Management Is Investment Protection

The stainless steel surgical instruments in dentists’ offices and even hospitals can cost upwards of $100 thousand, and even more in some cases.  And that cost doesn’t count all the other items doctors and nurses use in the course of their workday. However, surgical instruments, in particular, aren’t replaced easily due to high costs or limited availability. So, why wouldn’t healthcare facilities effectively track these items? The large investment should be reason enough. An effective inventory management system not only allows a healthcare organization to track the use and availability of these instruments, it also reduces the chances of loss and theft. Further, a medical organization can more efficiently manage rotation of the instruments between surgery, sterilization, and storage. call-to-action-810x75-c

Medical Device Tracking

Healthcare organizations that manage implantable medical devices, such as aneurysm clips and cerebral spinal fluid shunts, are under pressure to follow strict manufacturing guidelines and to document the device’s data and movement.  Implantable medical devices all have a serial number that tracks the device's movements—from the manufacturing plant until a patient undergoes an implantation. When a healthcare organization implements an inventory control system, its staff can more easily determine which implantable device was used on a certain patient for a specific operation. This is especially invaluable information if the implanted device causes any sort of adverse reaction in the patient. Orthopedic Solutions is a company that provides durable medical equipment, surgical supplies, therapeutic products and pharmaceuticals to orthopedic practices. They believe and highly recommend that their healthcare clients invest in an automated tracking system because it effectively monitors and maintains stock levels. “Items must be stored and managed within the medical office, so of course there’s a desire to not lose items,” Matt Fitterer, Account Executive at Orthopedic Solutions, said. “It was as if my clients' items kept walking away, they couldn’t find them, and they had no way of knowing who had used them last.” He added that when medical equipment, medications, and surgical supplies had to be manually entered into a database, it took too much time and resulted in errors due to miscalculation. Female doctor hold digital tablet pc and point in touch screen with finger closeup. Human interaction, professional consultation, therapeutist examine test results, new search opportunities concept

Contract Compliance

In the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, it’s common to have group-buying contracts with healthcare product distributors and manufacturers. These types of contracts are beneficial because goods can be purchases at reduced cost. Inventory management plays a crucial role in making the most of these contracts. If your organization is like 43 percent of small businesses in the U.S., then you likely use manual inventory control processes or don’t track inventory at all. If so, you’ll likely either purchase too many or too few of an item. Both possibilities negatively impact the operations of your facility. The last thing you want is to experience a stock-out due to ineffective inventory management, forcing you to purchase outside of the contractual terms at higher prices instead of the contracted prices. This creates a purchase price variance, making your organization noncompliant with the terms of the contract. A good inventory control system eliminates the risk of stocking out and keeps your facility in compliance with group-buying contracts.


Further, barcodes are often added to items due to FDA demands. In result, companies don’t take proper care with the application, thus the barcodes are hard to read and scan. Adding a barcode scanner to your tracking process will save valuable time and money.

Control The Spread Of Disease

Another important benefit of inventory management in healthcare is to control the spread of disease. In fact, studies proved that inventory management helped to prevent mad-cow disease from spreading through certain medical facilities in England.  When surgical instruments were properly tracked, it prevented the use of infected instruments with other patients. So you could say the control of disease starts with inventory management. In addition, when healthcare organizations maintain the correct stock levels of supplies and equipment when needed, patients won’t be denied health services. Without effective inventory control, you can’t keep accurate and timely data when supplies or equipment have been depleted and need re-ordered.  In the same way, inventory management is also important to monitor perishable items like medications. After implementing inventory management, Orthopedic Solutions’ clients reported a 90 percent decrease in inventory shrink and improved employee performance as a result of having a better tool to work with.