OR Implants and The Case for Supply Chain Automation
In an industry using surgical robots and ultraviolet disinfecting technologies, the utilization of sticky notes seems a bit archaic, especially when said sticky note is responsible for tracking implants worth thousands of dollars.
The hospital operating room is a multi-million dollar enterprise when labor costs, device costs, implant costs and supply chain costs are all factored in. However, in many hospitals the OR lacks a sophisticated process for managing implants and monitoring the supply chain.
"In an [average operating room], you're pulling sticky notes off devices that are being implanted into someone" and sticking them on tracking sheets, says Derek Smith, chief commercial officer of GHX, adding the potential for human error here could be life-threatening. "You could fax in an incorrect serial number or a sticky could fall off, and then you've just lost track of what was put into a patient, which could have a recall."
Addressing such technological lapses is a key focus of GHX, a healthcare technology company providing supply chain solutions.
"You remove those sticky notes, you scan [implants] into the system and have an automated flow from the supplier system," Mr. Smith says of a GHX solution.
Denver, Colo.-based SCL Health is one organization working with GHX to reduce OR costs and enhance the supply chain. Steve Chyung, vice president of supply chain and real estate, says he was shocked to see how manual and paper-based the processes were, especially for implants. "The implant supply chain is one of the most complex things we do at the hospital," he says. "It really requires a high service level."
Supply chain efficiencies haven't historically been top of mind for hospitals, especially in the OR setting where processes tend to be siloed, but that mindset is changing alongside healthcare reform.
"There's a lot of system implementation going on today as people try to get ready for the requirements of healthcare reform," says Cheryl Flury, vice president of corporate communications at GHX. "What I'm hearing from some of our customers is that it's really an afterthought in the OR to think about supply chain and to think about connecting supply chain systems and processes to OR systems and processes."
Mr. Chyung says that while he doesn't necessarily think the OR operates in a silo, each service line requires and deserves its own consideration. "In some ways, a hospital can run multiple supply chains, whether it's the OR, the [catheterization] lab or just getting general medical supplies up to the nursing floors. I think everybody needs to understand each has their own business model."
Automated supply chain tools may help bridge the gap between these different supply chains and centralize data in the electronic medical record or another database, enabling hospitals to monitor prices and see how supplies are being used, Mr. Chyung says.
Ms. Flury agrees, saying, "Now the OR is looking more to how it can work with other groups inside the hospital to make its business processes more effective and streamlined and help reduce cost."