Be choosy when choosing
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If you’re ready to purchase a new tracking system or upgrade a current one, be sure to bring all stakeholders to the table to get a clear understanding of what the deficiencies and needs are from start to finish. This way you’ll be better prepared to evaluate and purchase the best product for your facility. Here’s what the experts recommend.


 

“Evaluation of tracking systems must take into account the entire workflow and business justification. What is the primary goal of the data being captured? What must be true for the tracking system to function at optimal levels — what data, people and process should be considered?

From a data perspective, what is the source of truth and is it complete? Think about the downstream — how will the data captured in the tracking system align with the systems of record or systems of analysis? When health systems think about the entire process and workflow during evaluation, they will achieve the highest return on their implementation.”

Chris Luoma, Vice President, Product Management, GHX.

When researching and evaluating surgical supply tracking systems, it is important to have into account:

Can the system track all supplies used in the OR? Can it properly handle trunk-stock, consignment, non-surgical ad-hoc items, bone and tissue, etc.? Many systems will focus on a particular group of items, creating manual or inefficient work-arounds that end up creating more problems than help.

Does the solution have applicability throughout the entire organization? The right solution needs to be able to track supplies everywhere, not just in the OR. Organizations should consider solutions that can apply traceability principles throughout their organization (OR, Cathlab, nursing, general supply, warehouse, clinics and doctors’ offices and other remote locations, etc.) and for all types of supplies (implants, general medical, bone and tissue, instruments, etc.) and all done with the same system. A best practice system will eliminate the possibility of expired or recalled items from ever reaching the OR, and will have an additional safety net of preventing its use at the OR once the procedure is taking place. When we talk about patient safety, redundancy is key.

Is the system user friendly and does it eliminate manual input? This one is critical. Lack of ease of use will almost always generate lack of acceptance and compliance by clinical staff. Most of the failed attempts in the U.S. to adopt barcode tracking systems have been caused by solutions that require unreasonable efforts by the user (i.e., understanding which one of the five barcodes printed on a box they should scan, or slow scanning making the workflow feel inefficient and clunky). Or software that fails to handle all common barcode challenges properly (multi-barcode scanning, sweep-scanning, ability to look up items that are totally new to the system, etc.) The system should be able to scan all barcodes on a box simultaneously and seamlessly extract the appropriate data to populate the correct fields. Additionally, ease of use of the system for the supply management staff is also key. With manufacturers moving to UDI codes on their packaging, there are now more than 1.5 million UDIs published, and there will be millions more introduced in the next couple of years. Having a system that easily incorporates that information into the hospital’s systems is key.

Guillermo Ramas, CEO, Genesis Automation

“If a system works well for tracking, but creates a workflow burden for clinical teams before or during surgery, it isn’t practical. Ideally, include representatives from supply chain, clinical end users, perioperative management, revenue management, and IT.

When evaluating a tracking system, it’s important to ask how surgical supply management fits with other hospital supply chain services. How is it the same or different and why? What are the hospital’s opportunities to standardize processes that happen in the perioperative unit and other departments? Are there opportunities to capture data once and reuse it? How can utilizing standards (in addition to UDI use) enable us to capture more information while streamlining operational processes and surgical processes? Together, these questions can help value analysis teams understand the factors that matter most to their facility, and where they may be able to learn from existing practices or other departments.

The VAT (Value Analysis Team) needs to also understand that surgical purchasing does not exist in a vacuum. Too often, the exclusive focus is on integrating with clinical systems. While sharing information bi-directionally is a top priority of any system utilized in the OR, it’s essential to also understand how it fits with other departments like finance and purchasing systems. Physical space can also impact the processes required to manage supplies and instruments. Space is always at a premium in a surgical area, but methods of inventory management and positioning that reduce unnecessary steps (physical and within a system) by clinical staff to prep and access supplies during surgery should also be taken into account.

For members of the hospital’s selection team that have not witnessed the entire process of getting a supply or instrument needed for surgery, take a field trip to observe. Observing will give non-surgical members of the VAT a much better understanding of the top issues at an organization and what clinical team members navigate on a daily basis.”

Suzanne Alexander-Vaughn, Senior Product Manager, Omnicell

“Instrument and surgical supply tracking systems are more than meets the eye. The broader impact these systems can have on operational efficiency and financial performance should not be overlooked. At the heart of any system is ensuring availability of case cart needs; but dig deeper in the value analysis. Consider the ongoing optimization opportunities of preference cards, both immediate efficiencies and continuous improvements from aggregate data. Consider how time is used pre-op, intra-op and post-op for clinical and non-clinical users, and what value-added activities would replace manual processes and error remediation. These factors go beyond instrument tracking, and venture into the realm of holistic value generation.

Critical to the success of any system of this kind is to take stock of your stakeholders, engage them early on, and make sure that their needs are at the nucleus of the value analysis. We have seen extraordinary success when purchasing decisions were the product of an internal cross-functional collaboration of clinical, clinical operations, financial and logistics leaders.

Any tracking system must reflect the specific needs of an organization, but do not undervalue your external partners as part of those early conversations; by having a trusted advisor at the table, missteps and surprises can be avoided given their niche expertise.”

Anders Larsson, Vice President, Healthcare Marketing, TECSYS

As hospitals evaluate the products they need, and the products their surgeons are asking them to provide, a bigger question emerges: how can they effectively manage the increased number of vendors, products and data considering the regulatory requirements they face? An effective tracking system provides data that can be extrapolated to support Cost / Quality / Outcome (CQO) comparisons.

Product consumption data, combined with pricing information and viewed by procedure type, provides Supply Chain leaders with invaluable cost comparison data. Supply Chain leaders can then work to negotiate better prices for specific products. Materials Managers can validate whether the use of a specific product is impacting a procedure. They can also rank their product consumption and cost per case data to peer hospitals. As importantly, the Supply Chain team can also share the data with physicians and hospital leaders to identify which physicians are getting the best clinical results while balancing OR time and overall material costs. Physicians and hospital leaders appreciate the use of factual data and have responded positively to the data provided by the Supply Chain team.

Supply chain and clinical needs notwithstanding, it’s critical to truly evaluate the connectivity and interoperability capabilities of the companies invited to participate in the tracking system deployment. True interoperability is more than what limited interfaces provide; true interoperability successfully sends, receives and appropriately utilizes the digital information traveling throughout.

As hospitals evaluate the products they need, and the products their surgeons are asking them to provide, a bigger question emerges: how can they effectively manage the increased number of vendors, products and data considering the regulatory requirements they face? An effective tracking system provides data that can be extrapolated to support Cost / Quality / Outcome (CQO) comparisons. Product consumption data, combined with pricing information and viewed by procedure type, provides Supply Chain leaders with invaluable cost comparison data. Supply Chain leaders can then work to negotiate better prices for specific products. Materials Managers can validate whether the use of a specific product is impacting a procedure. They can also rank their product consumption and cost per case data to peer hospitals. As importantly, the Supply Chain team can also share the data with physicians and hospital leaders to identify which physicians are getting the best clinical results while balancing OR time and overall material costs. Physicians and hospital leaders appreciate the use of factual data and have responded positively to the data provided by the Supply Chain team.

Supply chain and clinical needs notwithstanding, it’s critical to truly evaluate the connectivity and interoperability capabilities of the companies invited to participate in the tracking system deployment. True interoperability is more than what limited interfaces provide; true interoperability successfully sends, receives and appropriately utilizes the digital information traveling throughout.

Robert Sobie, Senior Worldwide Director & Business Leader, BD

“Our recommendation is to have all stakeholders involved in an initial pilot project that will help address all questions regarding balance and usability of tagged instruments, as well as best suited instruments and devices tagging methods, and full adaptation to the specifics of the hospital’s inventory and reprocessing cycles. Alternatively, we are currently rolling out a number of training centers where medical and technical teams are able to experience first-hand seamless integration of item-level tracking into an OR and reprocessing workflow.”

Cory Turner, CMRP, Supply Chain Strategy Director, Healthcare, Infor

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