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April 03, 2020
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Supply chain tasks weigh heavy in healthcare, survey shows

Clinicians and supply chain managers say supply chain-related tasks are causing stress and affecting patient care, according to Cardinal Health survey.

Supply chain tasks are causing stress for clinicians and affecting patient care, according to a recent survey by healthcare products distributor Cardinal Health.

The fourth annual Cardinal Health Hospital Supply Chain Survey polled hospital supply chain decision makers as well as clinicians and found that doctors and nurses report spending more than twice the amount of time they would like to on supply-chain related tasks, and as a result, have less time with patients and higher stress levels. In addition, 25 percent of supply chain managers and 20 percent of clinicians reported that supply chain tasks "stress them out," according to the survey.

"The burden on clinicians of non-value-added supply chain tasks creates a host of other issues in healthcare organizations. Most critically, it pulls clinical focus away from patients and adds to existing stress on the staff when retention and satisfaction is already a concern," Lori Walker, vice president of distribution services at Cardinal Health, said in a statement announcing the survey's findings. "Unfortunately, many doctors and nurses feel that solving these problems is outside of their span of control, which further affects job satisfaction."

Two-thirds of the survey respondents said they have observed clinical staff frustration caused by supply-chain related issues, including:

  • Missing supplies. Three quarters (74 percent) of frontline providers say looking for supplies that should be at hand (but are not) has the most negative impact on their workplace productivity, and even more department managers (84 percent) say the same;
  • Manual tasks. Almost half (49 percent) of frontline providers report manually counting and tracking supplies, with nearly half (46 percent) of frontline providers saying this has a "very" or "somewhat" negative impact on their workplace productivity;
  • Utilization. Seventy percent of respondents noted wasting and overutilization of supplies as a significant or somewhat significant problem within the organization, with a higher percentage among department managers (81 percent).

The survey also found that clinicians and supply chain managers have increasing expectations of their surgical and medical distributors. Respondents said they want their distributor to play a larger role in ensuring their organization's "seamless operational performance," with 88 percent listing that capability as "very" or "somewhat" important to them; more than 70 percent of supply chain personnel described it as "very" important. What's more, 85 percent of respondents said they prefer to work with a distributor that makes recommendations for their organization that puts patient care "front and center," the survey showed.

Cardinal Health's online survey polled more than 300 health care providers from various health care organizations, the company said.

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