The way a patient care product is deployed can significantly impact the total value realized from its use. Standardizing specific patient care products across multiple lines of service, or multiple facilities, can simplify hospital supply chains and result in substantial savings.
Figure 1. How product standardization can lower costs and increase total valueSource: Mölnlycke Health Care. https://www.molnlycke.us/solutions/totalvalue/
“When we purchase products as a healthcare system, rather than as individual entities, we have greater buying power because we can get better pricing with higher volume,” said Thiebe. “Standardizing products also results in other types of savings due to reduced redundancy and increased efficiency. You have fewer SKUs [stock keeping units] to manage, more efficient contract management, and more efficient vendor relations.”
Standardizing products can also reduce training time, increase clinician efficiency, and even alleviate some patient anxieties. “Clinicians can work more efficiently if they can count on using the same product no matter what area of the hospital or facility they are in,” said Pam Bracker, registered nurse (RN), MBA, Supply Chain Development Specialist, Loma Linda University Health. “If you are using multiple products in one area, sometimes even the patients notice and will question what’s happening, asking, ‘Well the last nurse used this item on me. Why are you using that one?’”
In addition, product standardization can reduce human error by minimizing variation that can lead to mistakes. It can also strengthen care standards by institutionalizing best practices. “Ask any nurse and they will tell you they are dealing with thousands of different products every day,” said Sam Sullivan, RN, CNOR, and a Lean expert at Strong Memorial Hospital in New York. “When it comes to human error, if you give someone one item to choose from, they will choose that item 100% of the time. But if you give them 25 items to choose from, it opens up a huge risk for error.” The key is to eliminate any duplicative or unnecessary SKUs that can lead to variation and errors, but ensure that the ones retained are of a quality level to promote the best outcomes.
Variation in products and processes can lead to confusion,mistakes, and added cost. When selecting products, institutions would be well-served to consider how to incorporate consistency in care – through consistent products and processes – as a means to lower costs and increase value (Figure 1).
Sullivan experienced the benefits of product standardization firsthand when he oversaw a practice change that standardized the use of latex-free surgical gloves across several lines of serviceat Strong Memorial Hospital. “As a result of that change, we were able to eliminate surgical set-up tear downs caused by latex contamination. We have also reduced the risk of exposure to latex and the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction in a patient or staff member,” he said. “We were able to use product standardization in a way that not only serves the hospital, but also serves the patient by providing the patient with a safer environment.”