Looking to Lean: Innovative ideas in ASC supply chain management

In a webinar hosted by Becker's Healthcare on Sept. 25, Ned Turner, senior vice president of perioperative supply management consulting at Mundelein, Ill.-based Medline, discussed common challenges in supply chain management at ambulatory surgery centers and how they can be overcome by making changes in processes around supply chain.

According to Mr. Turner, the most common supply chain management challenges ASCs face include:

•    Inventory rationalization
•    Lack of space
•    Optimal procedural throughput
•    Staff productivity and supply utilization
•    Surgeon satisfaction

"There are so many moving parts to supply usage in ASCs," he said. "A wide array of factors can take away from patient care and add cost at a surgery center, such as room turnover, charge/cost capture, staff productivity and space utilization. However, by focusing on improving processes, surgery centers can spend less time on supply management and more time on patient care."

Mr. Turner is certified in Lean, or a philosophy of providing perfect value to the customer (in this case, the surgeon and patient) by continuously eliminating waste. One of the first steps in the process is understanding how supplies arrive at the center.

"All in all, there are four to eight different ways in which supplies come into the operating room," said Mr. Turner. Supplies come into the OR through the anesthesia care team, case carts and environmental teams as well as specialty carts. Surgeons also often use in-room OR supplies. Thus, supplies are being handled by numerous people before actually being used in the procedure.

"But does touching, or handling, the product add value to the customer?" said Mr. Turner. "A healthcare professional once told me that every time a sterile package is handled, there is an opportunity to damage or compromise that sterile packaging."

According to Mr. Turner, by reducing how often supplies are handled, surgery centers can lower the risk of compromising or even overusing supplies. Then ASCs can focus on reducing their Muda, a Lean concept defined as any activity that consumes resources without creating value for the customer, according to the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Applying the Muda concept to supply chain management can be a useful tool for increasing efficiency in the OR. A surgery center that Medline worked with reduced "touch-points," or the number of times routine supply items were handled, in one year by 96 percent, according to Mr. Turner. They had a person track the supply touch-points and then implementing an ideal case cart system, which includes only five steps.

However, it is also important that ASCs remember quality should not be sacrificed in the face of process improvement. "No matter what we do when working to improve supply management, we can't lose sight of quality," said Mr. Turner. "Compromising on quality results in mental anguish, financial anguish and wastage of time."

Download the webinar presentation slides here.

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