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Ideas That Work: Innovative Ideas
Get Sensible About Supplies
David Bernard
Publish Date: September 3, 2015   |  Tags:   Ideas That Work

Surgical supplies are one of your biggest expenses, second only to staffing. Everyone knows that every dollar counts, but some facilities are better than others at keeping case costs contained. What's their secret? Making sure that players in the perioperative process have an eye on the bottom line. Here are 6 smart ways you can encourage supply cost consciousness among your surgeons and staff.

— Compiled by David Bernard

shoeboxes in your PACU

1. Rescued resources. A little waste here, a little waste there, and pretty soon it adds up to serious money. Don't let unopened supplies and small instruments get carelessly thrown away at the end of the day. Put shoeboxes in your PACU, staff lounge and dressing rooms to collect the items that team members discover in their scrub or jacket pockets but don't have the time or motivation to return to the OR. This keeps your cash out of the trash.

expiration dates

2. Emphasize expiration. Regularly eating the cost of expired supplies and implants that can no longer be used, returned or exchanged is a sure sign of poor inventory management. Make sure your team pulls the items with the earliest expiration dates when they're setting up a case. You can easily draw their attention to soon-to-expire products with sticky notes, brightly colored dots or labels inscribed with the month and year. Then they won't have to search and squint for the right package, but can grab it in a hurry.


3. What's getting used? Another use for vibrant, visual, adhesive signals is to track supply usage trends. Put stickers on particularly expensive supplies, or those stocked due to physician preference, and write the date they arrived on the shelf on the stickers. During routine inventories, you'll be able to identify those that are no longer needed and those that rarely or never get opened before they expire, which can help you to prioritize your purchasing — ?and your storage space.

cost-effective alternatives\

4. Let them know. A surgeon's favorite supplies aren't always the most economical or best choices, and your staff is often focused more on expedience than expense. They'd probably consider more cost-effective alternatives, however, if they understood the costs that were passing through their hands. So show them. Set out all the consumables needed for a given procedure, along with a menu listing their individual and total prices. Or take a Sharpie and write the prices of selected items right on the boxes. This can help to cut supply waste as well as streamline inventory.

game-show-style contes\t

5. Guessing game. Turn case-cost education into a game-show-style contest at your next staff meeting. Pull all the items used for one of your most frequently performed surgeries — ?including the supplies used for pre-op, PACU and anesthesia care — ?and set them out on a cart. Ask all the surgeons and employees at the meeting for their best guess at the total price, and also the average reimbursement the facility gets for the surgery, and write out their guesses on a whiteboard. The correct answers will likely open a few eyes.

ordering suppli\es

6. Hands-on learning. If you have personnel who are ready and prepared to "manage up," put some of them in charge of ordering supplies for different specialties. Bringing them into the loop on usage and cost will encourage them to think about keeping costs down and avoiding waste. As they communicate and collaborate with surgeons' offices and their colleagues, they can hold them accountable for consumption and establish ideal par levels.


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