Exploring the Patient-Centered Supply Chain

At most hospitals, the supply closet is located about 200 feet from the patient bedside. Nurses, therefore, spend a considerable amount of time each day fetching supplies. Caregivers at heart, these nurses typically want to reduce the number of times that they make the long trip down the hallway and increase the time spent at the patient bedside. As a result, they often load up on supplies, bringing much more than what is actually needed to patients' rooms. And, when the patients are discharged, the supplies need to be discarded for infection control purposes.    

It's an inefficient and frustrating process as nurses would much rather be spending their time in direct clinical care. 

A patient-centered supply chain model can help, according to Michelle Robbins, Director of Healthcare Industry Strategy, Supply Chain, Infor, a New York City-based business application software vendor.  Here, she explains how this model differs from more traditional supply chain models:

Focus on the patient, not the transaction. A patient centered model focuses on each individual patient through the diagnosis code. As such, the system is able to determine what supplies are needed to treat each patient admitted under a certain code and those supplies are then ready and waiting in the patient room.

Integrate the ERP with the EHR, instead of struggling with disparate information. Sharing information between the enterprise resource planning (ERP) and electronic health records (EHR) systems is critical.  When these systems share data, the ERP system is able to have a "point of view" which captures the individual charge and supply utilization for each patient.  As such, supplies are automatically moved to the patient bedside and seamlessly restocked. 

Rely on supply techs, instead of nurses, for manual transport duties. Because information is integrated across systems, supply techs can deliver supplies to patient rooms.  Using supply techs for this labor is more cost effective and also frees up nurses to spend more time in direct patient care. 

Employ individual supply carts for each patient room, instead of decentralized closets. For example, a health system could remove all of their routine commodity items from supply closets, and place those items in protected locked carts next to the patient bedside – providing nurses with everything that they would need for routine patient care at their fingertips in the room. This would significantly reduce the time it takes for supply techs to inventory, pull and restock the nursing floor, enabling increased efficiency.  Indeed, using such carts could save individual nurses between 10 and 75 minutes each day.