The Benefits of Standardizing Doctor Preference Cards
Doctor preference cards are based on physician preferences; they inform the OR staff how exactly the surgeon wants the OR set before an operation. For each procedure a surgeon performs, the preference card for that procedure will contain a detailed list of the tools and supplies that he or she will require. Although similar procedures usually share some similarities in their set-up, physicians will often vary widely in the types, vendors, and quantities of supplies that they use. As a result, preference cards from different physicians will be far from identical, even when they are designed for similar procedures.
Because surgery is such a specialized practice, it makes sense that the physicians performing the surgeries would want the OR tailored to their exact specifications. The idea of standardizing doctor preference cards might therefore seem unpalatable to many physicians. But studies have shown that standardizing preference cards, and thus standardizing the supplies used in a given procedure, can have substantial benefits for both a hospital and its patients.
Benefits of Preference Card Standardization for Hospitals
The most obvious benefit preference card standardization offers hospitals is supply cost reduction. Due to variation in surgeon preference cards, hospitals may stock several different types of the same supplies from different vendors, and these may vary substantially in cost. By reducing this variation and stocking more cost-effective options, hospitals can ensure they are not overspending on supplies when less costly alternatives are available. The result is notable; case studies have demonstrated that through standardization, hospitals can drive down supply spend dramatically. Moreover, standardization gives hospitals the opportunity to make better deals with suppliers, further maximizing every dollar spent on surgical supplies.
Standardization also allows hospitals to unravel the Gordian knot of supply chain and inventory management. Unnecessarily complex inventory causes numerous problems for the hospital: overstock, expired stock, overhandled stock, and the need for excessive storage space, to offer a few examples. These, in turn, give rise to a substantial hidden cost for the hospital. The more a hospital can simplify its inventory, the better the supply chain will function. As a result, the hospital will realize savings it can put toward generating revenue and improving patient care.
Finally, standardization can help hospitals to better prepare for unexpected adversity. The onset of COVID-19, for example, exacerbated issues in the hospital supply chain, and many hospitals struggled to acquire the medical supplies they needed to function normally. The more uncomplicated the supply chain is, the more resilient it will be when the unforeseen occurs.
Benefits of Preference Card Standardization for Doctors, Nurses, and Patients
While the benefits of supply standardization for the hospital are clear, it may be tempting to disregard them in the name of patient care. After all, if allowing for supply variation is better for the patient, shouldn’t hospitals encourage it? The evidence on this point is also clear, however: higher supply spend does not ensure better patient outcomes, and standardization allows for better efficiency and consistency in the operating room.
The complexity of hospital inventory does not hurt only the supply chain; it can also have a negative effect on clinical efficiency. A plethora of supply options can greatly increase the time it takes for OR staff to set up the operating room and return supplies after the surgery if they remain unused. It also leaves more room for error during set-up, causing delays and interruptions during a surgical procedure while the necessary corrections are made. Finally, standardization helps improve consistency in the care that patients receive. Decreasing product variation allows for better quality control of the supplies that surgeons use. It also reduces the chance for human error in the OR, as the processes for opening and handling the supplies will likewise remain consistent.
It is important to note that standardizing doctor preference cards does not signify purchasing only the cheapest possible supplies. Rather, it means reducing complexity and increasing consistency. As a result, hospitals employ greater economy in purchasing the best quality supplies, and patient care improves due to greater efficiency and consistency in the OR.