Three ways to circumvent medical supply waste

Oi Hua Lee

A recent study has found that hospitals lose millions of dollars in unused medical supplies every year. From insufficient documentation to using newer supplies before those that are expiring, there—of course—are a multitude of factors that contribute to the massive loss experienced by hospitals. So, when budgets impact every facet of how our hospitals are run, you can’t help but ask how this is happening and what can be done to mitigate this at your organization?

Taking the top three spots for unused medical supplies are sponges, blue towels and gloves. Typically these items are disposed of to protect against contamination or damage from improper temperature control—pretty good reasons if you ask us. They may seem like insignificant items, but when you add it all up or realize that “surgifoam”—a sponge used to stop bleeding—can set a hospital back $4000, it definitely warrants a second thought.

What are some steps that can be taken to offset this wastefulness?

Transparency for Surgeons
The researchers of this study suggested price transparency for surgeons could impact their behavior. For example, a feedback system that would allow them to compare where they stand in comparison to their peers in terms of cost per procedure.

Review Instrument List
Another method they suggest is to review the list of instruments that surgeons request prior to the procedure. By going over the list, not only can unnecessary items can be removed but it also provides an opportunity to clarify which items should be opened at the beginning of a procedure, which can help save supplies.

Keep Track of Wasted and Expired Items
Last, you can take a page from one of our clients—The Center for Health Ambulatory Surgery Center (CFH)—who found that it was also losing money from unused medical supplies. How did CFH circumvent this? CFH used RL6 software to track wasted and expired items, as well as their cost, as an event type. Since doing so, it’s helped staff be more mindful of supply waste. The team has also made a really simple adjustment of rotating their supplies to use the expiring items first. Last, by customizing the system to track supplies, CFH has been able to tracking what items are overstocked.

We always say that no two hospitals are the same, and when it comes to hospital waste, it’s no different. If supply waste is an issue at your organization, we hope that we’ve been able to offer you some handy tips today.

To read more about The Center for Health Ambulatory Surgery Center, check out our case study: A System of Its Own


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