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If It's Inventory, You Should Manage It: How To Improve Your Hospital Supply Chain

an orange chiclet reveals two hands playing tug of war over a supply box

This is a surprisingly controversial statement - particularly within healthcare providers - but we stand by it: supply chain management should be managing all supplies. Here’s why…

Without high levels of visibility, supply chain managers can't be effective. A medical supply hasn't reached its final destination until it's been used on or in a patient, so knowing where everything is - across every step of manufacturing, shipping, receiving, storage, and distribution - is key to supply chain resiliency. That's just not something that hospital supply chain teams are empowered to do right now. But we think it should be. 

If something is brought into the facility on a delivery truck (unless that something is an injured delivery driver heading into the ER), it should be overseen by the supply chain experts working in that facility. 


By “inventory,” we don’t mean…

Chairs and trash cans. Sure, they’re dropped off at the beginning of a facility’s life, but they’re supposed to last the length of that facility’s lifespan. They're arguably assets, but they’re certainly not consumables. Facility management is all over the maintenance and replacement of that type of inventory, and we should be thankful every day for the valiant work they do.

That said, the literal nuts and bolts of facility management might well be items that you want to value at the end of a fiscal year. We’ve been asked to use our software to count everything from lightbulbs to rivets, and it can, but you’re probably better served using it to identify your actual inventory. 


By “inventory,” we mean… 
Surgical supplies

Obviously. This is the type of thing that you expect when you talk about supplies or inventory in a clinical setting and that we talk about all the time. No need to explain. Moving on.



Did you know that many healthcare facilities have a large amount of extremely valuable chemicals that are dispensed to and consumed by patients? Take a look around your workplace to see if you can find one of these mythical pharmacies today!

No, but seriously. Hospital pharmacies have to report a valuation for all their medications just like the ORs have to tally up all their sutures and catheters. Why should these be tracked in different systems? Just because they’re ordered separately, stored separately, and administered differently?

Give yourself the gift of simplifying at least one part of inventory management.


Medical devices

That knee replacement kit is stored on your shelf, costs you something, and will be going into your patient. So it checks all the boxes for being part of the facility’s inventory, yet it’s not tracked like all the rest of the medical supplies. That seems, to us, like an oversight.

(And if you’re reading this as a med device manufacturer or distributor, using Z5 Inventory to count everything you have in medical facilities is faster and more accurate than your current method, sure, but the real benefit is that you can integrate your reports with those facilities’ even more easily if you’re all using the same Z5 Inventory Platform to count shelves and report results.)

Even if that big, expensive piece of surgical equipment is supposed to be someone else’s problem, it’s stored in your facility, isn’t it? And you’re going to be responsible for paying for it at some point? Which brings us to… 



If a supplier is using up your storage space to house their goods, then telling you how much they’re storing and how much you’re using, then charging you for what you’re using, what possible incentive could they have for misrepresenting their counts?

We get it. You like these folks, and your clinicians do, too. You don’t want to accuse them of any wrongdoing or even sloppiness. But you audit your own counts, right? Double-checking the numbers as they come in is plain ol’ due diligence.

Count your consignment areas. For real.


Expired and expiring supplies

If it’s in the trash or headed that way, that’s not anybody’s problem anymore. Wait, that’s not right. What we meant to say was: if it’s in the trash or headed that way, that’s everybody’s problem.

Really got that one about as wrong as we could get it, huh? Whoops.

It’s a massive waste of budget, space, and time to let supplies sit on the shelves till they expire. And it’s happening in every healthcare provider in America. Yes, yours. We can prove it to you – and do something about it – with a comprehensive expiration sweep.


Why is this so difficult?

Honestly, that probably deserves its own blog and will probably get one in the not-too-distant future. For now, the important thing is that you have the tools you need to convince others to play in their sandbox. You’re the expert. Assert your expertise!

One of those tools that you need is the ridiculously simple, ludicrously accurate inventory management solution that is the Z5 Inventory mobile app and online dashboard. But you probably managed to guess that on your own. That’s what an expert manager you are.



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