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Operating rooms in need of better supply chain management systems and analytics

The operating room (OR) needs better supply chain management systems and analytics to help reduce costs and support patient safety

The operating room (OR) 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 decision-makers.

Nearly half (40%) of respondents revealed they've actually canceled a case, and more than two-thirds (69%) have delayed a case because of missing supplies.

Furthermore, 27% have seen or heard of an expired product being used on a patient, and 23% have seen or heard of a patient harmed due to a lack of supplies.

"Financial challenges persist across health care systems, and the operating room is one of the most costly areas to run," said John Roy, vice president and general manager at Cardinal Health Inventory Management Solutions.

"Fortunately, there is a clear solution to support patient safety and reduce surgical case cancellations: better supply chain management."

In addition, more than half of frontline clinicians say inventory management is "complicated" or a "necessary evil." In fact, 64% of respondents admitted to hoarding supplies and cited wasting or overuse of supplies as significant problems within their organisation.

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

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However, 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% agree automation reduces costs.

"Fixing these challenges requires thinking beyond the shelf," said Roy. "We believe streamlining processes and gathering real-time data through automated inventory systems can transform inventory management from a 'necessary evil' to a powerful tool that supports better quality of care."

Nearly all (92 percent) frontline providers surveyed 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 recognise the importance and are up for the challenge. The majority (77%) 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.

"OR surgeons and nurses work under intense pressure and depend on a large volume of varied supplies," said Roy. "While different OR stakeholders all face their own distinct challenges, together they can form a partnership to make important changes that move their organisations forward."

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