Supply chain and clinical specialty areas: Creating collaboration

By Rita Antis, CMRP, Materials Manager, Perioperative Services, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center

Now you're ready to take steps toward better visibility and organization.

One of the biggest problems with inventory management in clinical specialty areas that a clinician would face is the lack of data for good decision making.  And this is an area that supply chain can help. 

The very foundation of inventory management is utilizing PAR levels.  Start by explaining this inventory management system to the clinicians and then identify the PAR levels.  Embrace your clinician’s knowledge here – they’re a wealth of information and can provide information regarding case volume trends, such as:

  • Most total joint replacements are done on Monday so supplies for those cases need to arrive by Friday
  • There’s a new surgeon joining the organization, who will increase case volume by 10 procedures per week
  • Or, one of the surgeons will be retiring at the end of the month so certain supplies do not need to be reordered

The clinicians may be more apt to overcompensate in the actual levels to avoid stock-outs.  For example: the clinician may be thinking the PAR level of an item should be 15 because he orders 3 boxes that contain 5 each every time this is ordered and all of 15 are always used.  But, what he is not considering is that those 3 boxes will last months.  So while his statements are accurate, the on-hand PAR level of 15 is excessive.  You can help with this because you can provide usage data instead of purchasing volume.  Collaboration – and good data – are key.

At Chesapeake Regional, the OR has specialized category teams – for instance, an ortho team, a general surgery team, a robotics team. The teams consist of a nurse and either a surgical assistant or surgical tech. I work with these teams to review PAR levels, possible consignment opportunities, and to address any concerns they may have. Helping them understand supply chain methodology has helped.  Of course there can be resistance, but communication and a team approach definitely helps.

Here are a few ideas of steps that can offer improvement:

  1. As you begin working in the Clinical Specialty Areas, reorganize and restructure those supply rooms.  Make everything as visually organized / accessible as possible. Help the clinicians understand that storing things in 3, 4, 5 different locations means never knowing what you actually have on hand and leads to over-ordering and expired products.  Moving supplies out of procedure rooms, cabinets and employee lockers into one main area is an easy, immediate way to reduce ordering inefficiencies and is a good first step in allowing supply chain access to inventory, order and stock these areas. 
  2. Encourage participation from your supply chain staff.  Get their input on how these storerooms could flow. Ask how they’d make the rooms more visually organized, for easier inventory and restocking.  Make them feel included in this process, making sure not to forget their input or alienate them – they are valuable to this process!
  3. Identify consigned vs owned inventory.  This is a big hurdle.  Those consignment reorders often require information on the replacement reorder such as lot and serial number.  These products need to be clearly identified.  An order that was mistakenly placed for a consigned product by a supply chain staff member who was unaware it was consigned inventory can do damage to these newly formed collaborative teams.
  4. Assign a supply chain team member to restock commodity items in specialty areas.  If you’re not doing this yet, make that change now. It’s a great way to get your supply chain team into those areas.  Because these items are commodity and not specialty items, there is less fear of not having those supplies – it’s an easier bridge to get clinician compliance.  Also, clinicians will see an immediate reduction in time away from clinical processes to do restocking.

In the next blog, we’ll start taking a look at how you can improve standardization!