3 tips to overcome costly inventory management issues at ASCs

Inventory management plays a key role in the profitability of an ambulatory surgery center. When inventory is managed in an accurate and timely manner, productivity and profitability increase. Facilities with good inventory management practices in place also avoid needless cancellations and delays by ensuring all necessary supplies are readily available when needed.

However, when there is no inventory oversight at a center, things can quickly get out of control. This is especially true for a busy ASC like New Britain Surgery Center. When I first arrived, there was no one person responsible for overseeing inventory nor was there an active line of communication between the administrator and materials management person. Over time, this lack of oversight took its toll on the center and costs associated with unused inventory were mounting.

Despite the significant impact inventory management can have on a facility’s bottom line, it is an area that is often overlooked because it is an onerous process. I am confident the issues that plagued our center are not unique. It is my hope that, by sharing what I have learned in the pursuit to regain control over inventory management, other facilities can benefit.

Inventory lessons learned:

1. Inventory management should start before a center opens its doors. Enlisting the help of an ASC inventory management expert will ensure all the necessary details are considered, and the right processes are implemented from the beginning. As we learned first-hand, it is challenging to put a system in place once a center is already functioning.

2. Leverage technology to automate inventory management. Using paper or spreadsheets to maintain accurate and current inventory information, including catalog numbers, pricing, and units of measure is labor intensive and highly error prone. Significant time and cost savings can be achieved when automating the inventory management process. If your center already has a clinical management system in place, inquire about inventory management functionality which may be included. Rather than investing in a whole new solution, we were able to utilize the inventory management module within our existing SourceMed system.

3. Don’t go at it alone. Whether a new center is setting up inventory management processes for the first time, or an existing center needs to get inventory back on track, hiring an ASC inventory management expert is a worthwhile investment. A seasoned expert will ensure proper processes and technology are in place to optimize the cost of acquiring and holding inventory while satisfying your center’s requirements for keeping supplies on hand.

When hiring an outside expert, someone who only points out problems is not enough. You want someone who will offer actual solutions. SourceMed’s Chief Nursing Officer, Ann Geier, MS, RN, CNOR, CASC, was able to draw on her vast ASC experience to provide our center with the tools and tips necessary for an effective inventory management program. The level of detailed advice she offers is exceptional, and in just a few short months we have already seen many positive changes.

With the first stage of New Britain’s inventory management endeavor underway, additional work remains. While it is too soon to determine the long-term cost savings achieved by regaining control over our inventory management, we expect the amount to be significant. What tips do you have for effective ASC inventory management?

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