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.