Umbrellas and Orthopedic Implants: The Travesty of Information Constipation

Sitting on my couch, I clicked the “submit” button on the Home Depot website, an online order for a 6x9 umbrella for my deck. It was delivered to my house 2 days later. I had bought the same umbrella 13 years ago. Back then I had to visit 3 stores, it was twice the price, I had to special order the color I wanted, and it took 3 weeks for it to be delivered for pick up at the store.

What happened? Why was my experience so much better now than back then? I’ll tell you why, and its two simple words: Perfect information. When I purchase something online now, the seller learns about me - where I live, what my preferences are. Instead of visiting 3 stores over an afternoon, I visit 5 websites in 10 minutes. All of the data surrounding my purchase is used to benefit me. As a consumer I get better selection, better price, and much more convenience because of perfect information. Perfect information, unfettered flow of data, leads to consumer benefit - this is inarguable.

If you would like an example of the opposite end of the spectrum, go visit a hospital operating room. The consumer, ostensibly the surgeon, is using items and implants in the course of surgery. They are not tracked digitally in the field, but manually - written down. They are then “called out” to a nurse in the corner of the room, who attempts to find them on her computer. Sometimes she can find them, sometimes she cannot. She makes her “best guess” - however about half of all patient records for orthopedic implants are incorrect so its basically a crap shoot. The incorrect usage record is then manually entered into a computer in purchasing a few hours later, and incorrect items are sent to the hospital for replenishment. The bill arrives and a sales rep chases down a PO sometime over the next 2-3 weeks, but most of the time is spent haggling over the incorrect implants ordered. Something that takes seconds in the retail industry takes weeks for healthcare, and is marred by horrible waste and inefficiency.

What a mess.

The main difference between the umbrella purchase and the hospital purchase of the implants? Perfect information verses information constipation. When the umbrella was purchased, when virtually anything is purchased at a retail level, the information regarding the purchase is created digitally and then information is used to create a more perfect supply chain for the consumer. The implant supply chain is characterized by manual inputs, data errors, walled off end usage demand data. It can take literally weeks or even months to complete.

Healthcare providers desperately need to follow the path of the retail information revolution. It will yield more choices, better prices, greater efficiency, and better results for patients. The best place to start with regard to orthopedic implants in the OR is by digitalizing the information - scanning at point of use. For implants that are used in the sterile field, that means Summate Technology and Scan Ready sets and trays. Summate can turn any tray into a scannable asset, digitalize the supply chain, and unleash the power of more perfect information for the healthcare provider industry.

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