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Technology best practices for streamlining your supply chain management

If you're still using a binder or sticky notes to manage your supplies, it's time to come into the digital age. Although manual processes have worked, using technology for supply management can help improve efficiency and let you focus on what really matters – providing high-quality patient care.

Companies across the healthcare industry feel the same pressures to save time and money while supporting improved patient outcomes. With the right technology at your fingertips, you can expedite and streamline your healthcare supply chain management.

Why technology is essential to healthcare supply chain management

Time is money, and using technology helps simplify the steps your office staff has to take and standardizes processes and ordering across locations, explains Kellee Taylor, senior product manager at McKesson Medical-Surgical.

"You should be able to place orders, track your orders and make payments online. We try to help eliminate filing and paperwork as much as possible for your staff. Save your files digitally as needed and utilize tools such as email notifications and reporting tools," she said.

By switching to your distributor's ordering platform instead of a binder, you can access past orders, match invoices and pay online. And that's just the beginning of the efficiencies you can uncover. Let's dig into a few supply chain tips and technologies that can help you reduce manual inputs and boost efficiency.

1 | Create a digital work environment

Let's be candid. It's not efficient or reliable to jot down notes on sticky pads or fill out manual inventory checklists in a supply room or warehouse, then go to your desk to input the information into your PC. It's time-consuming and you risk making errors in data transfer.

"Going digital saves time and cuts costs in multiple ways. You save time since ordering online is much more efficient than calling customer service or using other methods, such as faxing in handwritten orders. You can place your orders in just a few minutes, allowing you to spend more time with patients or doing other needed tasks," Taylor said.

But first, you need to get a handle on your supplies list. By loading your supply list into an online ordering system, you always have a reference point and can repopulate it based on past ordering. You can also begin to set perpetual automatic replenishment (PAR) levels or quantities you want to keep on hand. This helps to keep you from running out of essential supplies during patient encounters.

"By going digital, you take the guesswork out of knowing item numbers or what you ordered last time," said Brian Locey, director of sales support at McKesson.

It also allows you to standardize your healthcare supply chain management. If your primary employee who oversees ordering is sick or leaves the company, someone else can easily step in and know what to do.

"When you establish PAR levels [and] somebody approaches the shelf, they know what to order, how much they should have on their shelves and the reorder point to get back to that level," Locey said. With a digital list, the person ordering knows precisely what items to get.

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2 | Use an online order management system

To create more efficiency, go beyond just entering your list on a website and putting it into an order management system. An all-in-one solution can streamline the ordering and payment processing for your supplies.

Locey explains that McKesson's online ordering platform, the McKesson SupplyManagerSM, assists with three key healthcare inventory management areas to improve efficiency:

  • Online ordering
  • Cost comparison
  • Customized reporting

The platform also allows you to standardize ordering across locations for standard items. For example, you can choose one type of gloves to leverage economies of scale and ease interactions with your distributor, rather than letting each location choose different gloves.

Additionally, an order management system allows users to:

  • Manage returns
  • Approve invoices
  • Make payments online
  • Review packing lists and so much more

The key here is using one platform to accomplish many tasks.

3 | Adopt a digital scanner system for healthcare inventory management

If your company has multiple locations or various supply rooms scattered throughout a primary campus, taking inventory is critical to keeping those shelves full. Make it as easy as possible for your inventory or supply manager to quickly scan the on-hands and get that data into your order management system so you can see what you need to order.

"McKesson ScanManagerSM is a handheld scanner you can walk around your office and scan barcodes as needed. After getting all your items and quantities, log into SupplyManager and upload from the device. This takes all the items you've just scanned and puts them in your shopping cart where you can quickly check out," Taylor explains.

Streamlining inventory and ordering tasks frees up more time for patient care and ensures you're not caught empty-handed at critical moments.

Product standardization also results in safer care, enabling your staff to become proficient at using the same supplies and equipment instead of learning to use different items.

4 | Use technology to manage budgets

Having multiple staff put data into an order management system is common practice. Although they're aware of the supply needs, they may not always pay attention to inflation or fees for expedited shipping. Therefore, it's essential to use software that offers budget tracking.

When you don't have internal controls over your supply chain, it's hard to know what's going in or out. Technology shows where you stand against your supply budget. Without a formulary and standardized ordering processes, employees make decisions without guidance. And before you know it, you're over budget. This may become costly if your staff buys outside your contracts and pays higher prices.

"Use business analytics to guide your decisions," Locey said. "Don't just guess. Know your data. And standardize orders across your network to get the lowest acquisition cost every time."

Technology can help track your spending against your budget in real time, giving you more control over expenses. Ultimately, going digital with your healthcare inventory management enables you to save time and cut costs so you can keep your focus on the patient.

"When the business is healthy, that enables better patient health and better outcomes for patients," Locey said.

Following these steps to adopt technology for your healthcare supply chain management can help you achieve those goals.

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© 2022 McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.