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Avoiding Expiration: You're Not Bad At Your Job. Your Job Is Impossible.

10/5/2021

colored chiclets reveal a hand reaching for help out of a pile of boxes

Healthcare providers set savings goals without any of the resources necessary to meet those goals. So how are supply chain managers supposed to meet their expiration avoidance goals each year?

Every healthcare worker we've encountered - from part-time clinician to system-wide CFO - is doing the absolute best they can with what they have. We really mean that. They're working too hard to make the most of what little they have. 

Maybe they think more can be done. And it always can, whether they have the time necessary to realize it or not. But the system is preventing improvements by the way it was set up in the first place. 

Let's look at how. 

 

(All of the examples included below are from actual healthcare providers who have worked with Z5 Inventory. So not only can you believe us, because we've seen it, but we can believe you, because we've seen it all.) 

 

The Resource Problem 

You're strapped for time, budget, personnel, and basically every other resource that would make inventory management actually manageable. We get it. And that's not being said in an "Ugh, get over it..." kind of way. 

We get it. We understand. 

This is what we've written about maybe the most in this blog, so we won't belabor the point here. Let it suffice to say: what supply chain pros need is an additive solution to their problems. When a new service claims to solve your challenges, it's lying if it's challenging to implement. 

What actually helps is a software or service that is easy to learn (if you have to learn it at all), can be implemented quickly, and provides ongoing value with the minimum effort put in. Where medical and surgical supply expiration avoidance specifically is concerned, that means the ability to track what's going to expire and prevent that expiration without impacting the day-to-day operations of the supply chain or clinical staff. 

See How Z5 Helps Hospitals Valuate Inventory In 1 Day

Ongoing optimization ought to be easy. But hospitals are often set up in ways that make everything more difficult... 

 

The Organization Problem 

A pallet gets dropped off in the dock, inspected briefly, then wheeled straight to Radiology. The pallet's boxes get opened and the medical supplies inside get distributed by the Radiology staff. If the hospital's supply chain pros have any interaction with the product, it's to separate product that's going to different departments. 

They don't have much insight into where or how the supplies are stored or what old supplies were in those storage areas when the new supplies went in. They don't have much insight into how those supplies are actually used. The supply chain managers don't have much ability - or any authority - to manage those supplies. 

Sound familiar? It's a situation we've encountered and reencountered at provider after provider. 

If the people best equipped to make decisions about what should be on the shelf don't know what's currently on the shelf - or how product has gone on and off the shelf in the past - they can't be effective decision makers. That's true when the supply chain team doesn't proactively interact with the clinical teams, but occasionally even supply chain management and procurement are siloed such that they can't effectively coordinate their efforts. Which is insane. But we've seen it happen. 

Because of that, this might well be re-termed "The Visibility Problem." Usually visibility is a word reserved for the exterior supply chain - seeing how the needed materials are gathered, how they're manufactured into needed products, and how they're shipped to their final destinations - but what about the internal supply apparatus of the healthcare provider? 

All of this could be solved with software and/or services that provide updates as often as anybody wants an update. The updates would also need to be viewable in a central repository accessible by all stakeholders. 

But there's something else to overcome... 

 

The Technology Problem 

The biggest obstacle to implementing a tech fix to any problem in healthcare - especially in supply chain - is the limitations of the equipment and capabilities already in place. 

We've talked about the computers running versions of Windows that are nearly thirty years old, and yes, those are a problem. Not just because of all the obvious issues of processing power and breach vulnerability. Although those are - and this is an understatement - a problem. 

Any new tech brought into a healthcare space is usually burdened to meet the same requirements as every other tech that's already there. HIPAA can be a scary word when whispered by the on-staff IT experts. Even when the software is purely managing medical supplies and never interacts with patient records in any way. 

 

Most existing supply chain software and ERP systems don't actively track expiration dates, let alone look proactively ahead to predict when medical and surgical supplies are likely to expire to prevent that from happening. It's almost a foreign concept, even though it's a core feature of smart inventory management. 

Okay. So what healthcare providers need, then, is a secure technology that can meet their supply chain management needs but work on any system. As long as a device can be connected to the internet - whether the latest and smallest mobile device or the oldest and brickiest tower running Windows 95 - it should be able to use this tech. 

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And - if the supply chain team wants to use it - they probably need to be able to install and use it with no IT involvement and minimal training. 

 

The Consensus Problem 

Many of the cost-saving, quality-of-care-improving initiatives imagined by supply chain are dead before they begin, because the various interrelated departments and facilities are not aligned.

Decisions about what should be on the shelf that come from the top-down aren't well communicated to the people who are actually working at the shelf level. Decisions that are made at the shelf level aren't easy to replicate across every shelf. That could be because of clinician preference, the siloing of the health system, or any number of other obstacles. 

And all that's presuming that anyone can admit there's a problem in the first place. On one end, you have clinicians and administrators saying that waste is a cost of doing business. On the other end, you have the supply chain pros who are offended when someone dare suggest that they could maybe possibly be doing their jobs a little better. 

Because - and, again, we can't emphasize this enough - you're doing the best you can with what you've got. You just need more. More time, more budget, more personnel. 

And Z5 Inventory just happens to be able to help with all of that. 

 

The Expiration Solution 

What healthcare providers need to manage their medical and surgical supplies more effectively - avoiding the high cost of product expiration along the way - is a solution that meets them where they are and supports them however they need support. 

  • Do you need a software that enables you to collect and report inventory data - from a single shelf to an entire healthcare system - as often and quickly as you want? 
  • Do you need a logistics network through which to move, sell, and donate your excess inventory to turn its potential expiration cost into immediate savings? 
  • Do you need staff that understands medical environments and the high standards that come with them to support you in all of your efforts? 
  • Do you need supplies to fill the gaps your staff might be missing? 

Z5 Inventory can help. And we want to. Because we get it. You're doing the most you can with what you have. Let us add all that we have to help you do better. 

 

Topics: selling medical inventory, reallocation, inventory management software, healthcare logistics, buying medical supplies, medical supply chain tracking software, new platform, medical supply procurement, ongoing optimization, loss and expiration avoidance

Alex Diamond

Written by Alex Diamond

Raised in the armpit of East Texas before escaping to the civilization of Austin, Alex is an author and former radio/podcast personality. If you ever run into him, ask him about the day he split his pants in front of the Lone Ranger.