Half of hospitals still managing supply chain data manually, if at all

Hospital decision makers obviously understand that efficient supply chains can boost margins and bolster bottom lines. And many also understand they can improve the quality of care.

Despite that, nearly half of those polled for a new report say they’re still using manual processes such as spreadsheets to manage their supply chain data instead of deploying more sophisticated analytics tools.

The survey, sponsored by supply chain management vendor of Syft, finds that many hospitals recognize SCM as a priority but haven’t made technology investments to improve its performance.

Just 13 percent, for instance, said it was their organization’s highest operational investment priority for 2019, with many more focused on areas such as patient throughput and process improvement.

Still, hospitals said their recognized the good ROI of effective supply chains: 86 percent said better SCM would improve care quality, for example. Other healthcare leader saw supply chain as a means to improve their ability to deliver value-based care (67 percent), improve staff satisfaction and retention (45 percent), boost patient outcomes (43 percent) and and ensure regulatory adherence (37 percent).

Which is why it might be surprising that 27 percent said they haven’t deployed analytics software to assess their supply chains for areas to improve quality and efficiency. Some hospitals (19 percent of them) aren’t even analyzing it at all.

Those that are use a variety of measurement methods, according to the poll, such as in-house solutions (39 percent), EHRs (16 percent), third-party tools (19 percent) and outside consultants (7 percent).

About three out of four respondents said they use SCM analytics for tracking inventory (76 percent) or consolidating suppliers (71 percent). Fewer pursue more advanced use cases such as accessing data on case cost in the OR (57 percent), identifying and managing expired supplies (50 percent), surgeon supply use variance (42 percent), other (3 percent).

In the OR, especially, low-tech approaches are commonplace: “Specific to operating room procedures, 37 percent use Excel or other Microsoft tools to track margins per case,” according to the report. “Twenty-seven percent use other low-tech tools, don’t know if they track OR margins, or do not track those margins. Thirty-six percent use a specific technology solution to track OR margins.”

Despite these findings, many hospitals are innovating their approach to supply chain management – including, in some cases, using blockchain technology.

“For supply chains where participants are not known or trusted, blockchain technology can add trust, transparency, and traceability,” said McKinsey researchers in a recent report. “Almost by definition, these supply chains are complex, multi-tiered, involve many parties, and they operate in a regulated environment that demands a higher level of traceability.”

“As we move towards value-based care models, hospitals are facing increasing pressures on their margins, and on their ability to deliver quality care,” said Syft CEO Todd Plesko in a statement. “It’s amazing that while the large majority of survey respondents believe SCM can improve costs and care quality, fewer say they’re actually deploying advanced supply chain analytics to take advantage of that potential impact, which presents a major missed opportunity.

“Hospital leaders are going to need to use every tool in their toolbox to succeed, and they will need to turn the supply chain into a strategic business lever – not only to save money, but to improve clinician satisfaction, patient outcomes, and the care patients receive,” he added.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication. 

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