March 23, 2022 Guest opinion piece
GHX’s James Minards looks at how automating procurement and inventory management operations help healthcare providers reduce the amount of time doctors, nurses and care workers spend on non-clinical tasks.
Automation and digitalisation of the healthcare supply chain and procurement operations can lead to improvements in areas such as cost, efficiency and even patient safety. For key medical staff, like doctors, nurses and care workers, automating time-consuming procurement tasks can also free up more time for patient-facing duties.
From digitalising stock checks to creating automatic replenishment orders, healthcare providers can reduce the time their frontline staff spend on non-clinical tasks by making simple improvements to their inventory management operations. So, where exactly could time savings be made, and how much of a benefit could a digitalised supply chain be for the clinical front line?
Traditional procurement processes, too, can be very time consuming for frontline staff. As doctors and nurses will have the best understanding of the stock they need and when, they are often the ones placing procurement orders. This process takes time, especially for those whose roles are not focussed on procurement processes. Manual procurement results in overstocking and increased wastage, where frontline staff are ordering more than they need, rather than having easy access to historic usage data supporting a “just in time” approach. This can have negative financial consequences, but also places staff under extra pressure to raise timely and accurate requisitions.
These scanners update a central stock list in real-time to give up-to-date information on existing stock levels, enabling re-ordering and requisition processes to be run automatically when stock levels drop below a certain threshold. GHX implemented a similar two-stage approach to digitalisation for NHS Scotland, first by digitalising the ways in which stock levels were monitored by equipping clinicians with handheld devices, before creating automated programmes to replenish items once they fell below a specified level.
The past few years have taught us just what a fantastic job our healthcare frontline workers do. Whilst digitalisation of supply chain processes in the healthcare sector can lead to a range of benefits, perhaps one of the most important is that it can alleviate some of the burden on those frontline staff to help them to focus on their clinical roles.