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You're Muted: How To Improve Communication Within Hospitals

2/9/2021

Cans connected with string. We hope your communication is more sophisticated than this.

At the best of times, it can seem like hospital departments hardly talk to each other. And different provider facilities within the same network? Forget about it.

REMINDER: We're talking with Becker's Hospital News and Steward Health Care about how Steward hospitals saved $16 Million by preventing product expiration on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 11 AM. Join us to see how much you could be saving. 

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And then came COVID-19. Suddenly executive and finance teams were extremely interested in what their supply chain teams were doing. 

In some cases that meant an increased amount of scrutiny. Monthly or quarterly status updates became daily check-ins. In some cases that meant supply chain teams were given a blank check to acquire whatever they needed by any means necessary. Because all the established systems of production and distribution were basically on fire. 

And now - though we certainly wouldn't say things are back to normal or even a new normal - supply chains have at least calmed down a little bit. Shipments are a little more reliable. But that doesn't mean everything ought to go back to the way it was. 

We're hopeful that the lines of communication opened by those daily check-ins and emails and office drop-bys will stay open. That's the only way to accomplish the three goals we recommend for all healthcare providers and provider networks: 

 

1) All departments must have a voice in crafting policy. 

The clinical team is concerned with providing the best outcomes as easily as possible. The financial team is concerned with - you guessed it - finance. Too often the supply chain team is caught between these two forces, trying to appease both. But neither side fully takes into account the particular struggles of procurement and distribution. 

If all teams are represented in the discussion that helps determine all teams' behavior, isn't that obviously better? 

 

2) Executives and supervisors must enforce policy. 

This is maybe the most important step. Because it's so often skipped. 

You want to standardize a certain catheter across every facility? Great. But that cost-saving or outcome-bettering policy doesn't mean anything if an OR manager doesn't know or care about it and orders whatever catheters they want. 

We've seen great ideas and innovations fall apart because supervisors don't communicate the importance of what they've decided to do. The people who would actually be executing those initiatives - making orders, filling shelves, and throwing out expired product - need to be aware of policy and aware of how to carry it out and - crucially - why. 

 

3) Lines of communication must remain open. 

This isn't just to make getting supplies around the facility easier, although that certainly is great. Nor is it to make sure that every department has exactly what they want all the time every time. 

The point of ongoing communication is making sure that everyone is aware of everyone else's concerns. That way, policy can not only be designed, but redesigned. And as often as possible. 

Think about it in terms of the bodies that we're in the business of keeping healthy: if a muscle is pulled in the back, unless it sends a message of pain to the brain, the eyes won't see the problem, the ears won't hear it, and the problem won't ever be addressed.

And, sooner or later, the body stops moving. Because of an isolated problem that no other, isolated areas knew about. 

One of the biggest challenges supply chain teams face - whether the finance team notices or the clinical team cares - is expiring product. If you want help in understanding or communicating this problem within your facilities, join us for our webinar presented by Becker's Healthcare. We helped save Steward Health Care $16 Million in their first year. How much could you be throwing away? 

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Topics: inventory management software, healthcare inventory, beckers, steward health care, healthcare supply chain, medical supply chain tracking software, service system for hospital inventory, management of hospital inventory, inventory management

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.