Advanced Analytics Make Supply Chain Pros of Cath Lab Teams

Manage to your Medicare margin. That is the mantra guiding 408-bed Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Los Angeles toward the promised land of better care at lower cost. As reimbursement continues to fall to previously unimagined depths, and as U.S. healthcare increasingly rewards value while punishing volume, “Good Sam” looks to its managers to preserve that margin by slashing supply costs without compromising clinical quality.

For Kevin Brown, cardiovascular service line director, the key to supply chain success is teamwork, diligence and advanced analytics. Combining the Cardinal Health Inventory Management Solutions™ real-time supply inventory and usage capture devices with their cloud-based software platform, Brown and his team are making great strides across three cardiac cath labs and one electrophysiology lab in the busiest of 35 designated heart attack response centers in all of L.A. County.

“I have to have cost-per-case information at my fingertips,” explains Brown. “With this solution, I’m able to drill down and compare each individual procedure type and each physician’s [utilization metrics]. From there, we can renegotiate supplier contracts, set up primary and secondary vendor relationships and better control our supply costs.”

The advanced analytics component was one of the first features Brown added to the Cardinal Health solution when he arrived around three years ago. The solution was initially installed in 2007. Team member Rowena Gler, CPACS-CVIS data support coordinator, recalls the rollout and the challenge and expense they faced with expired devices.

“We were having big issues with tracking expired items. We had no idea what was in our master catalog because nothing was listed,” says Gler, who was a cath lab nurse at the time. “Everything relied on the inventory manager, and he had no way of giving out reports on usage and analysis and par levels.”

Gler says the bigger ticket items such as stents and balloons were the first to come under the RFID microscope for smart tracking, inventory control and reordering. “Today, practically everything is automatically tracked,” she says, adding with a smile that only “little items like gauze pads and syringes” manage to escape the smart cabinet’s watchful eye.

As pleased as Brown has been with the solution's advanced analytics, he’s equally confident in the capacity of its standard functionality to cut costs while improving patient care. Among the features and benefits he can check off without even having to pause and consider:

Streamlining point-of-care workflow. Nurses working in the cath and EP labs can count on ease of use and high accuracy when capturing every item for the record of each patient case. “They’re just waving items into the case by scanner,” says Brown. “It’s very easy and very reliable.”

Pre-pulling of supplies before procedures begin. “The second you pull a product off the shelf, it goes into a pending status,” Brown says, adding that if the product ends up not getting used, the solution automatically re-enters it into inventory when it’s returned to the shelf or shows an alert of a missing item that needs resolution. 

Discernment of lots and individual items within them. The solution understands that, if a product comes in a box of five, it needs to count down as you empty the box, says Brown. “This makes it very unique among inventory solutions that I’ve seen in the past. Most don’t have the ability to understand that unit of measure as far as, Is it an ‘each’? Is it part of a set? How many are in the set? And so on.”

Automated par-based reordering. A staff member must review each requisition recommendation prior to releasing to the materials system, but a reviewed digital suggestion is far more foolproof than a losable analog reminder—or a “mental note.”

“Cardinal Health Inventory Management Solutions™ takes supply chain management, which is a science in its own right, and makes it possible for cath lab staff and EP staff to largely fill that role,” says Brown. “It really helps them perform on the same level as the smartest inventory management expert a hospital could have.”

“We’re attacking supply costs every day,” he adds, “to make sure we preserve our margin.”