Achieving cost-savings in an ASC's supply chain, inventory program: 5 tips for success

As expenses accumulate and reimbursement per case continues to challenge ASCs, there is a major opportunity to yield savings: an effective supply chain and inventory management program. During Becker's ASC Review 24th Annual Meeting: The Business and Operations of ASCs on Oct. 27, Stephanie Martin, RN, CNOR, vice president of operations and clinical services for Regent Surgical Health, and Bilinda Garlock, RN, BSN, manager of clinical operations of ASCs for Cardinal Health, discussed key ways surgery centers can achieve an excellent supply chain and inventory management program.

Here are five strategies.

1. Manage inventory based on usage. Many surgery centers fall prey to ordering products to fill capacity, as opposed to ordering supplies based on usage during a certain amount of time. Staff may engage in hoarding practices under the mantra that they would rather have too much, as opposed to having too little when it comes to supplies. "Staff often hold sutures in their pockets as it is easy to carry around," Ms. Martin said. “They often don't know what it costs and are unaware they are carrying around $50 or $100 dollars worth of items in their pockets."

Materials managers may also engage in the practice of ordering more supplies then necessary, according to Ms. Garlock.

"They may order too much inventory because their bin is empty," she said. "Manage your inventory based on usage, as opposed to filling to capacity."

2. Give your supply chain leader ample room to achieve his or her goals. The healthcare environment is requiring ASCs to operate on slimmer operating margins and centers need to identify a leader well versed in the supply chain to gauge cost-saving opportunities. Ms. Garlock said ASCs should ensure the supply chain leader is a key function of the business and give them a seat at the executive table to ensure supply chain management is part of an organization's overall strategy.

Ms. Martin added, "Giving them the latitude and growth for what they want to achieve can be acutely important in helping centers achieve what it needs overall."

Ms. Garlock said technology may prove useful when supply chain leaders talk to C-suite leaders on various expenses in the supply chain and ways to reduce these figures.

"It is important to embrace technology in your centers. We have to think about running ASCs as a business and you can't run a business without data," she said.

3. Analyze your clinical processes. There is often an array of hidden costs within clinical processes that surgery centers should look out for that may be costing a fair amount of capital.

"Look at the clinical practices going on in a surgery center and dig deep into the standardization of those processes," Ms. Garlock said. For instance, a scrub tech may go into an operating room to set up a table prior to a procedure and then go on break, resulting in that individual scrubbing back in during the time of the procedure. "If every scrub tech did this and your center performs 8,000 procedures per year, this could result in estimated losses totaling $20,000 or more," Ms. Garlock said.

4. Regularly review the items in packs. "From my perspective, packs may be the highest spend product within your centers outside of physician preference items like implants," Ms. Garlock said. Cardinal Health recommends surgery centers review their packs every one to two years. "Items may be getting wasted due to practice changes, change in procedure mix or change in staff surgeons," Ms. Garlock noted.

To improve this process, the clinical team should foster a strong, working relationship with materials management, including a clear line of communication. ASCs may consider forming a cross functional team for the supply chain, including physicians, scrub techs and other stakeholders.

5. Ensure the ASC is strategically aligned around a supply chain and inventory management program. Ensuring all stakeholders are on board with controlling costs within the supply chain is crucial. Surgery centers should identify a champion equipped with a positive attitude. This person's dedication to controlling costs will translate to other staff members, making this a goal for every member of an ASC. Ms. Martin said ASC leaders should walk their staff through the goal they are trying to achieve through their initiative, whether that is keeping an ASC's doors open or finding better products that improve patient safety.

More articles on supply chain:
What your ASC can do to cut costs today: 3 leaders weigh in
IV bags in short supply due to Hurricane Maria — 5 insights
Dr. M. Jonathan Worsey earns national supply chain award — 4 insights

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