How to Manage Unmanaged Healthcare Inventory in the Cloud

As an industry, the healthcare system has to rethink how we manage inventory. It's now expected that hospitals should continue to push for new and innovative methods to manage their business, which includes automation, mobile solutions, and most importantly, a healthcare supply chain strategy.  “Managing unmanaged healthcare inventory” may sound like an oxymoron at first, but in fact, the need exists in the space more than you might expect.  

Healthcare Inventory Tips

Ensuring you have the right amount of supplies in stock at any given time is the best way the supply chain department can help support and organization to provide the best patient care. While many healthcare organizations have implemented Cloud-based solutions and inventory management tools to keep costs down, improve productivity, keep accurate count of materials on-hand, and increase the visibility of those items across departments, others are still living with outdated systems, processes, and approaches to managing critical inventory.

How to Manage Perpetual Inventory in Healthcare

The concept of perpetually managed inventory locations is common in healthcare. These are areas within a facility where inventory is closely controlled and products coming in and out are accounted for to have an accurate understanding at any time of what is on the shelf. By leveraging minimum and maximum stocking levels you can even automate replenishment of these locations. 

Another common inventory management strategy in the healthcare environment is PAR or Periodic Automated Replenishment. In this model, optimal stocking levels, or PAR levels, are established and through a system of management. These locations are routinely restocked up to these PAR levels to ensure product is available for use.

What Does Automation Look like for Managed Inventory?

Using a mobile materials management system lets healthcare providers take control of their supplies. RF-SMART’s mobile functionality, combined with the Oracle Cloud, gives you a process that ensures your inventory levels are maintained at ideal quantities. This allows for easy management to define locations, the items within, min/max levels, replenishment method, and other key attributes. With the ability to create shifts and define schedules, you can manage work activities and staffing to monitor and maximize efficiency. You are able to see who did what and when they did it, and your entire organization can perform real-time inquiries to see what’s on-hand.

Arming your supply chain professionals with mobile devices, they are able to go out onto the floor and count, request and look up item information and make sure everything is at optimum levels. The application is easy to use and learn, and offline mode means they can do their job without worrying about spotty WI-FI connectivity. 

While this type of automation may be the holy grail for inventory management, there are often areas of the organization where this level of control and management is not sustainable or simply doesn’t make sense. 

How to Manage Unmanaged Inventory

When talking about unmanaged inventory, we are referring to areas of the organization where routinely used items are manually reordered or requested via data entry into the ERP. In some cases, this may even be a warehouse or stockroom. In a hospital, it may be stock areas such as the operating room and cath lab.

Regardless of the industry or facility, we often find that in these situations, someone is charged with walking the shelves to determine what needs to be reordered and manually writing down the items that look low. They then return to their desk to create a requisition or purchase order in Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud. This may result in minutes or hours sitting in front of a computer performing data entry, even for routinely ordered items.

What Does Automation Look Like for Unmanaged Inventory?

RF-SMART’s new Mobile Requisitioning solution for Oracle Cloud turns this very manual, time-intensive process into a quick and easy 3 step process:

  1. User to pick up a mobile device
  2. Scans a shelf or product barcode and
  3. Enters a quantity and unit of measure (UOM) to reorder
Yes, it’s really that simple.
From the mobile device they can review their order, add items, update quantities, and remove items. Upon submission and within seconds, that requisition is visible in Oracle Procurement and the remaining steps of approval and sourcing can take place. This is all enabled using RF-SMART’s configuration studio that allows the workflow to be fully customized and streamlined to make the process as simple as possible for the end user. Automating this ordering process with a mobile device can help organizations decrease labor costs, improve productivity and optimize their supply levels.

While many of us recognize that perpetual inventory management across our facilities may be the goal, it is also important to admit that there are areas where it is simply not a viable solution, or at least yet. Rather than burdening individuals with the task of manual data entry for the items they order or manage on a routine basis, it is worth considering a solution such as Mobile Requisitioning.

What to see this technology in action? Schedule a Demo of Mobile Requisitioning:

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About the Author: Bill Brewer currently serves as Healthcare Product Manager at RF-SMART in Jacksonville, Florida. In this role Bill is responsible for overseeing RF-SMART’s healthcare supply chain strategy and roadmap. Prior to his appointment at RF-SMART, Bill served as Regional Director, Materials Management at USPI/Tenet Healthcare. He has also served in supply chain leadership roles at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center UFHealth, and University of Missouri Healthcare. Brewer holds a Master of Health Administration and a Master of Science in Health in Health Informatics from the University of Missouri. Read his other posts on The Delivery Chain Blackhole and COVID and The Supply Chain.