Managing medical supplies can feel like a never-ending burden for many occupational medical providers and Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Managers. Between putting together first aid kits and keeping track of inventory, the list of tasks goes on and on.
Because we have a first-hand understanding of the unique challenges that come with ordering and managing medical supplies, we’ve put together a list of tips to make it easier. These suggestions are geared towards ordering with ease, reducing waste, and making responsible purchasing decisions, which in turn helps lower costs.
1. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE ORDER AND MEDICAL KITS
Knowing the types of supplies, quantities, and where the supplies need to be shipped are all important items to keep in mind when ordering medical equipment. Items could be unavailable from the manufacturer or have restrictions based on the type of supplies, which could affect your initial order. Knowing where the supplies are going can help you factor in transit time for delivery.
Make sure to be as specific as possible when ordering. Becoming familiar with the strength of the medical supply and knowing the brand can help with the ordering process. To help with shipping, it’s helpful to know the customs, brokers and storage for the medical supplies before ordering. To reduce costs, it’s often fine to order generic medications instead of brand names.
Once the medical equipment arrives at the project, waste is commonly seen in the medical field. Most often, medical supplies go to waste because someone is unfamiliar with an item. Many medical supplies must remain unopened until time of use to ensure sterility. Once an item is opened, it cannot be saved for later use.
The best way to order and reduce waste is to familiarize yourself, and anyone else who may use the medical items. Additionally, it can be helpful to keep some items on hand for the specific purpose of training and practice.
2. REDUCE DISTANCE BETWEEN ITEMS
Many medical supplies are needed at the spur of the moment, and often get misplaced. Because of this, items often get reordered because they can’t be found—even if the stock isn’t actually low.
Reduce the distance between storage areas for medical supplies as much as possible. Keeping items close by, easily accessible, and in consistent locations decreases redundant inventory. This also lowers stress and response time during an emergency.
3. PROTECT YOUR SUPPLIES ONCE THEY ARRIVE
It’s best to store medical supplies in durable containers. Most manufacturers of soft medical goods do not intend for their supplies to stay in the shipping boxes they arrive in. Make sure you know what temperature the supplies should be stored at and specific storage instructions. Most medical supplies need to be kept at room temperature and stored dry.
Prevent breakage and over-stocking by removing supplies from their original packaging and storing them in durable, see-through containers. Not only will the supplies stay safe, clear containers allow medical providers to find the item they’re looking for with ease and speed.
4. STANDARDIZE YOUR MEDICAL KITS
All items in your medical kits should be accurately labeled so you can easily find them while the pressure is on in an emergency. If your workforce speaks multiple languages, make your labels multilingual; language barriers are the last thing you want in the way when remedying a medical situation.
Including a guide in the kit that explains how to use the items can also be a helpful addition.
Learn more about our medical kits.
5. SIMPLIFY YOUR INVENTORY SYSTEM FOR REORDERING
Inventory systems can quickly become overly complex and frustrating. This can lead to increased supply orders based on hunches and desires rather than an accurate inventory count.
Taking the time to create a simple and easy-to-use inventory system increases the quality of care and compliance by your medical providers. Implementing a digital inventory system reduces confusion between team members, and allows purchasers to easily track what items need reordering. Using barcode scanning (available on many smartphones) ensures that medical providers track and order exactly the items they mean to and lowers accidental reordering of unnecessary items.
Be sure to reference the specific item when reordering to help with the quoting process. An inventory system could include quantities, lot numbers and expiration dates for the medical supplies.
6. MONITOR SUPPLY ORDERS
Ordering guidelines for medical supplies should be strict, and if possible, someone in the chain of purchasing should oversee orders to prevent preferential ordering from one provider to the next.
While there are clear exceptions to this rule (sterile glove type, preferred personal protective equipment, etc.), enforcing guidelines help increase compliance and lower unnecessary purchases. Be strict in your ordering guidelines.
Guidelines could include knowing who your point of contact is for ordering, requesting an estimated shipping date and requesting the tracking number once the order has shipped.
After implementing these tips, it’s best to review them every six months to a year. There’s always something to improve. Consistent review is the best way to find out what it is and make a plan of action.
If you would like help implementing these medical supply management systems, or would like to learn more about our equipment and supply services, please contact us.