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Every year, hospitals and healthcare facilities lose millions in unused supplies. Why is this such a problem, and what can you do to prevent it?

If it feels like healthcare is in the news everywhere you look these days – cable news, social media, online news sources, and newspapers – you’re not wrong. As Congress debated changes to the Affordable Care Act several times last year, the entire country seemed to be engaged in the conversation. And while these conversations undoubtedly matter to you and your organization, chances are that your day-to-day concerns hit a little closer to home.

Effective supply chain management is critical to avoiding waste. A 2012 report by the National Academy of Medicine estimated medical surplus, or waste, adds up to an estimated $765 billion annually. If you want to zero in on one of your most expensive departments, researchers at the department of neurological surgery at the University of California found unused supplies cost the hospital $2.9 million per year – for one department in one hospital!

Why do hospitals dispose of unused supplies?

What’s the reasoning behind hospitals disposing of millions in supplies that are, in some cases, still perfectly usable? There are several grounds for such a move, and some make more sense than others:

  • Product is past the use-by date. Expired products should never be used, but this does beg the question, why was the product allowed to sit on the shelf and expire?
  • A new model was introduced to replace previous model.
  • Regulatory measures. For example, once an item is placed in a patient’s room, it cannot be used for another patient even if it was never opened.
  • Stocking space issues, wherein old supplies are disposed of simply because there’s no room for new supplies.
  • New contracts with new vendors.

Your organization will need to question how it is losing money to supply waste, and why. Identifying the problem is only the first step toward saving your organization money. Once you have an idea of what supplies you are actually using and what’s going to waste, and why, you can take steps to reduce unused product.

Potential Solutions

If you haven’t already, perhaps one of the most important steps you can take is investing in an automated system that can track soon-to-expire products, count inventory, and notify staff when orders are necessary. This is the simplest way to accurately track what supplies are used and how they are used. Armed with knowledge, your organization will be able to identify problem areas and hopefully come up with solutions.

If you’re already using an automated system and still see dollars flying out the window with unused supplies, there are other considerations, including, but not limited to:

• Price transparency among staff. It’s easier to waste money when you’re ill-informed.
• Physician preference cards allow nurses to remove unnecessary items from the OR and clarify which ones should be opened at the beginning of a procedure.
• Be sure to know which medical devices can be reprocessed by an FDA-approved third-party company and sold back to the hospital.

Suture Express may be able to help you with all these steps, and more. Visit

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