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7 Ways Hospitals Can Trim Costs

Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, FAAN, for HealthLeaders Media, April 12, 2011

Here are seven ideas that hospitals can leverage to increase efficiency while reducing costs and better managing patient care:

1. Evaluate: Survey your clinical staff: what are the top 10 supplies they hunt for? Learn from them and build solutions based on what they already know. Make sure all staff are familiar with where supplies are. One study indicated that it took temporary nurses nearly twice as long to find supplies as regular staff nurses, at least initially, which reduced time available to do other tasks.

2. Redesign: Redesign nursing unit layouts to improve access to frequently used supplies and to prevent nurses from stockpiling what they need (and later discarding) unused supplies.

3. Ask: Survey your exchange cart staff: what products are out of place most often? Do any work arounds exist, such as hoarding or product relocation?

4. Purge: Get rid of antiquated capital equipment. Antiquated equipment breaks often and challenges staff to cope with unnecessary delays, create workarounds to make the equipment work, or takes extra time to complete processes.

5. Shadow: The director of materials management can shadow a nurse for a few hours. Walking a mile (many nurses walk four miles each day) in the nurse’s shoes can build perspective for the daily constraints that must be overcome and enable materials leaders to develop new processes that make the most of both nursing time and resources.

6. Organize: Arrange supply and medication rooms so they are the same or similar on every nursing unit. Supply techs become more efficient with the standardized layout during stocking activities, and staff (especially those who float, travelers, or are reassigned to different units), don’t have to guess where a product is located.

7. Track: Unused but discarded supplies can be costly. Operating rooms have learned the lessons about this reality, and this mindset can be spread to medical–surgical units. But we can’t improve what we can’t measure, so being able to quantify what is unused is crucial, and is a key first step to developing process changes that can send dollars straight to the bottom line.


 Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, FAAN, is chief nursing officer at VHA Inc.

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4 comments on "7 Ways Hospitals Can Trim Costs"


stefani (5/20/2011 at 10:21 AM)
Slash and burn! Spoken like a true Fellow! First thought out of the gate is to reduce staff even tho the literature has shown that reducing staff compromises care. No matter how you slice it. Sure the correct mix is important, but not as important as instilling a culture of accountability and holding ALL providers accountable for outcomes. The days of medical complacency are over....untill execs are willing to tackle the 800 lb gorilla in the room, hospital culture will remire mired in the 1950s

Ebrahim Meisha (4/16/2011 at 10:11 AM)
Thank you

Lisa Sams MSN, RNC (4/15/2011 at 4:27 PM)
As a CNS who walked in the trenches with staff I commend the recommendations in this article...#5 is particularly valuable. If more folks in hospital director and executive roles shadowed staff the discussion would focus on the bigger picture, not one aspect of operations. How clinicians function is often the direct result of other services that are not designed to focus on patient care. Taking an integrated systems perspective is essential in order to draft an effective action plan that meshes with strategic vision. I've seen RNs waste precious minutes running down supplies or sending specimens placing patient needs second to that of obtaining the necessary resources. A bit like asking the airline pilot to locate the ground unit rather than do pre flight for safety.