HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hospital supply chain management is not just distributing medical supplies
  • Timely supply of right products at the right cost is crucial
  • Effective supply chain management cuts cost and reduces waste
  • Mobile apps are revolutionizing hospital supply chain management
INTRODUCTION

Understanding what is hospital supply chain management

Hospital supply chain management is the governance of the flow of medicines, medical products, equipment, and services from manufacturers to patients. It is a critical part of healthcare operations within a healthcare facility and involves:

  • Planning
  • Sourcing
  • Procurement
  • Inventory management
  • Distribution

Supply chain management in hospitals, however, does not merely mean giving out medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and equipment. The trick is to ensure that the right products are available in the right quantities, at the right time, and at the correct cost to support the best possible patient care.

There are several stakeholders in a hospital supply chain management system, including:

Manufacturers: Big and small research, vaccine, and biological labs that develop products in response to demand and need.

Distributors: Those who sell and deliver the products, equipment, and supplies.

Providers: Healthcare providers include hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living centers, and long-term care institutions that place orders for products.

Patients: People who are ill and need medical products and services and consume them.

Regulatory agencies: Government entities that determine if the products and services are safe and in the best interests of consumers.

Payers: Insurance companies also play a role in assessing if the use of the products is reimbursable.

These stakeholders act differently as they have their own goals – a manufacturer may focus on ground-breaking research, a distributor may pick up products that provide a better margin, and a provider may prescribe a product preferred by a senior colleague. It is essential, therefore, for a hospital supply chain management in healthcare to align itself to delivering quality patient care, even if it means roping in expert services.

IMPORTANCE

Why is effective supply chain management in hospitals important?

Effective hospital supply chain management is vital for several reasons.

Just-in-time delivery: First, it ensures just-in-time delivery of medical supplies. By ensuring that healthcare providers have access to the necessary resources when needed, an agile supply chain management in hospitals has a direct and positive impact on patient safety and quality of care.

Cost containment: Healthcare costs are continuing to rise. Efficient hospital supply chain management helps in optimizing procurement and inventory practices, and this leads to significant cost-cutting. It helps to negotiate beneficial contracts and enhances budgets, facilitating further investments into quality patient care and expansion of healthcare services.

Reduction of waste: The National Academy of Medicine has estimated that the U.S. healthcare system wastes about $765 billion a year — about a quarter of what's spent. Hospital supply chain management best practices focus on reducing waste. Minimizing excess and expired inventory improves sustainability.

A weak hospital supply chain management system will lead to treatment delays, compromise the safety of patients, and reduce patient satisfaction. So, hospital supply chain management is rightly seen as the lifeblood of healthcare operations, while the use of mobile healthcare apps is at the heart of supply chain management in hospitals. Designing and developing custom healthcare mobile apps is considered one of the leading hospital supply chain management best practices to overcome several problems.

CHALLENGES

Problems encountered in hospital supply chain management

Challenges that hospitals encounter in supply chain management have a profound impact on financial health, patient care, and operational efficiency. Here are some common challenges faced:

Overstocking: The problem of excess inventory not only ties up valuable resources but can lead to colossal wastage. For example, a hospital may stockpile perishable medications and supplies. This not only leads to financial loss but also deters timely and quality patient care. It also ties up funds that can be channeled for other critical needs.

Scenario: A patient with a life-threatening condition may be wheeled into emergency. The caregivers may be lulled into complacency as the inventory level of the drug required is high. Except, it is revealed that it has expired just before administration to the patient.

Understocking: Conversely, understocking can pose equally significant challenges. If hospitals run out of essential supplies or medications, there can be disruptions in patient care. It also leads to expensive emergency purchases, taking up costs.

Scenario: Imagine a surge in patient admissions, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inadequate inventory management may lead to insufficient ventilators at a time when patients are gasping for breath with dipping saturation levels. This adversely impacts timely respiratory support for patient care.

Expired supplies: Inefficient tracking and rotation of supplies can lead to the inadvertent use of expired products. This not only raises safety concerns but also results in financial losses due to the disposal of expired items. Despite mechanisms like reverse supply chain, the return of expired drugs entails distributor costs as a percentage of the total value of the drug.

Scenario: During the flu season, a hospital procures the flu vaccine in large numbers. As it is a seasonal affliction, the stock gets pushed to the back of the shelf, and when there is a re-surge in flu cases in the next cycle, the shots that have a shorter shelf life are useless.

Physician Preference: Inventory and carrying costs go up when hospitals order supplies based on historical models and physician preferences rather than actual utilization and expected demand. Physician preference items have been estimated to cost between 40-60% of hospital supply costs.

Scenario: When it comes to high-cost implantable devices, cardiac surgeons may prefer a particular stent, defibrillator, pacemaker or heart valve. However, studies conducted on different brands and their performance have often revealed that due to technological advancements, there are cheaper and more efficient alternatives.

In fact, Premier Inc., one of the largest group purchasing organizations in the US, led an initiative called the Partnership for the Advancement of Comparative Effectiveness Review. This helped save an estimated $8.1 million in cardiac stents and surgical mesh from 2014 to 2016. Hence, hospital supply chain management challenges need to be addressed proactively to ensure seamless healthcare delivery while optimizing resources.

SOLUTION

Role of mobile apps in hospital supply chain management

Mobile apps have revolutionized supply chain management in hospitals by offering customized solutions to address challenges. This in turn, has helped to improve patient experience and operational efficiency

Customized mobile app development can optimize hospital supply chain management

 

Real-time supply tracking: Real-time supply tracking apps empower hospital staff with instant access to inventory data. The ability to monitor stock levels, expiration dates, and usage patterns helps to cut costs and maximize clinical outcomes. Manual tracking errors can be reduced by up to 60%, preventing overstock and understock situations, through customized mobile apps in healthcare supply chain management, according to Grand View Research.

Automated reordering: Mobile apps can be programmed to generate purchase orders automatically when supplies reach predetermined reorder points. The use of such apps reduces the burden on the administrative staff and eliminates the risk of understocking.  According to a study in the International Journal of Supply Chain Management in 2021, automated reordering through mobile apps can reduce supply chain lead times by 30%, ensuring timely replenishment.

Expiry date management: Custom mobile apps can monitor and manage supplies with expiry dates. The app sends alerts and notifications when items are approaching expiration. The hospital staff is able to prioritize the use of these supplies or redistribute them to prevent waste. According to data from the Healthcare Financial Management Association, hospitals can save up to 25% on supply costs by effectively managing expiration dates through mobile apps.

In summary, mobile apps are indispensable tools in hospital supply chain management and can be highly customized to significantly reduce errors, optimize inventory levels, and enhance operational efficiency, resulting in substantial time and resource savings for hospitals.

EXAMPLES

Real-world success: hospitals transforming supply chains with mobile apps

Hospital supply chain management is seeing the increasing use of mobile apps to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Here are some real-world examples:

Medication inventory management: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia uses mobile apps to track medication inventory. Scanning barcodes with the use of mobile devices, pharmacists and nurses are able to update inventory levels in real-time. This helps prevent medication shortages and expirations, ensuring that patients receive the right medications when needed.

Reordering medical supplies: The University of Kentucky HealthCare employs mobile apps to automate the reordering of medical supplies. These apps monitor stock levels and generate purchase orders when supplies reach predefined thresholds. This reduces manual work for staff and ensures a steady supply of critical items.

Expiration date management: At the Mayo Clinic a mobile app helps to manage supplies with expiration dates. When supplies approach their expiration dates, the app sends alerts to staff, enabling them to prioritize usage. There is no wastage of valuable resources.

Temperature monitoring: Hospitals, like the Cleveland Clinic, rely on mobile apps to monitor temperature-sensitive supplies such as vaccines and blood products. These apps provide real-time temperature data. If storage conditions deviate from the optimal range, the concerned staff is notified through alerts. This helps to maintain the integrity of critical supplies.

Vendor collaboration: Global healthcare logistics company, Owens & Minor offers an app that allows hospitals to connect with their supply chain. Hospitals can track orders, receive alerts, and communicate directly with suppliers to ensure timely and accurate deliveries.

Clearly, mobile apps have become integral to hospital supply chain management as illustrated in the real-world applications listed above. They improve inventory accuracy, reduce errors, and enhance communication between healthcare providers and suppliers. In other words, the use of mobile apps for hospital supply chain management in healthcare leads to better patient care and cost savings.

WE CAN HELP

Develop a real-time supply tracking mobile app to manage your hospital supply chain and ensure waste and cost reduction

Asahi Technologies is a proven healthcare technology solutions provider. Combining our full-stack development expertise with domain knowledge, we deliver industry-specific applications that solve complex health technology challenges.

Our robust healthcare mobile apps ensure healthcare stakeholders are always in touch with each other, even when on the move. We offer a growing range of applications that cover clinical reference and diagnostics, hospital operations management, patient monitoring and management, and healthy living and wellness tracking. API integration is a given, and so interactivity is guaranteed. We have a proven track record in building mobile device technologies for hospital operations management.

We are problem solvers, solution builders, and trusted partners.

Rahul

Rahul

Chief Solutions Architect

Rahul is a wellspring of wisdom when it comes to driving innovation and improving healthcare services using advanced custom software solutions. He specializes in delivering the technical guidance needed to ensure success across the digital product life cycle. His unique problem-solving approach provides the guidance and strong architectural foundation needed to transform digital health services.

Rahul

Rahul

Chief Solutions Architect

Rahul is a wellspring of wisdom when it comes to driving innovation and improving healthcare services using advanced custom software solutions. He specializes in delivering the technical guidance needed to ensure success across the digital product life cycle. His unique problem-solving approach provides the guidance and strong architectural foundation needed to transform digital health services.

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