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April 28, 2017
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Survey: hospitals call for supply chain improvements

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Automation and analytics could deliver patient safety, avoid inventory outage, save healthcare workers' time.

Improvements in hospital supply chain management can go beyond simply cutting logistics costs, and actually deliver better patient safety and quality of care, according to a study released in mid-February.

The improvements would do more than just trim the fat on business processes, according to the survey of hospital staff and decision makers by Dublin, Ohio-based healthcare services giant Cardinal Health.

Rather, they would address specific weaknesses in hospital supply chain practices. The survey found that one in four hospital staff have seen or heard of expired products being used on a patient, and 18 percent have seen or heard of a patient being harmed due to a lack of necessary supplies.

In addition, the survey showed that physicians and nurses currently spend an average of nearly 20 percent of their workweeks on supply chain and inventory management tasks—time they would prefer to spend serving patients, performing research, gaining education, or training new staff.

"Supply chain management is not only a key business tool, but an essential component in supporting patient safety and care," Shaden Marzouk, chief medical officer at Cardinal Health, said in a release. "Our survey found that many hospitals are experiencing patient safety issues that could be prevented through supply chain improvements."

One solution to the challenge is supply chain automation and analytics, Cardinal said. The survey revealed that nearly one third of respondents haven't implemented a new inventory management system in at least six years, and another 25 percent don't know if it's ever been done. In addition, 78 percent are manually counting inventory in some parts of their supply chain and only 17 percent have implemented an automated technology system to track products and inventory in real time.

Cardinal offers more details on results from the survey online. The study includes data from 403 respondents, including frontline healthcare providers in hospitals, service line leaders in hospitals, and hospital/supply chain administrators. Respondents completed the online survey between Oct. 19 - Nov. 4, 2016.

Supply chain leaders can assess how effectively their own supply chain operations are performing by taking Cardinal Health's online "inventory management IQ quiz."

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