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Medical supply shortage: 64% of surgical staff hoard, waste or overuse

The findings underscore financial challenges many health systems are experiencing as the operating room is one of the costliest units to run.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The operating room needs better supply chain management systems and analytics to help reduce costs and support patient safety, according to a new Cardinal Health survey of surgical staff and hospital supply chain heads.

About 40 percent of respondents revealed they've actually canceled a case, and 69 percent have delayed a case because of missing supplies. And 27 percent have seen or heard of an expired product being used on a patient, while 23 percent have seen or heard of a patient harmed due to a lack of supplies.

More than half of frontline clinicians said inventory management is "complicated" or a "necessary evil," according to the survey. 

Worse, 64 percent of respondents admitted to hoarding supplies and cited waste or overuse of supplies as significant problems in their organization.

The survey found that OR surgeons and nurses are frustrated with their hospital's current manual inventory process. The majority, 83 percent, of respondents' organizations are manually counting in some part of their supply chain, while only 15 percent have automated RFID systems. 

Yet respondents see the benefits of automation. One in four say automated systems free up time to focus on patients and support better outcomes, and 39 percent agree automation reduces costs.

Meanwhile, 92 percent of frontline providers see the need for an inventory management system designed for the specific volume and nature of supplies in the OR. Although supply chain decision makers are most responsible for cutting costs, surgeons and OR nurses recognize the importance and are up for the challenge. 

The majority, 77 percent, would like to be more involved in supply chain decision-making, nearly half say "saving money helps us all," and three in four contend that quality patient care can be maintained while reducing costs.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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