Amanda Akers

Digital Preference Cards: An Insufficient Hospital Solution

Hospitals today are painfully aware of the numerous issues that mismanaged preference cards routinely cause. Because they are so difficult to keep updated, preference cards are all too frequently neglected. Lack of maintenance leads to massive supply waste, OR inefficiency, and physician and nurse frustration. Preference card data is rarely available to the supply chain, resulting in costly amounts of overstock, expired stock, and inaccurate inventory data.

Digital Preference Cards: The “Obvious” Solution

Historically, preference cards were simply handwritten on pieces of paper. This insecure system was naturally at great risk of human error and neglect as cards deteriorated over time. In recent years, most hospitals have moved to digitize their preference cards, so that pick lists are printable and changes may be made more easily. Some of these hospitals store their cards in platforms specifically designed to house preference cards, while others simply use Excel spreadsheets. An increasing number of hospitals use their EHR systems, which often have some sort of preference card module, to store and print their preference cards.

Hospital Solution

Digital preference cards have many obvious advantages over paper cards. They are stored in the cloud or the hospital’s database, which renders them far more secure and easy to access than they would be on physical paper. Creating pick lists is more easily accomplished without having to decipher handwriting, and preference card edits may be made with less difficulty. Some software even functions as an app, allowing clinicians to share preference card information easily between devices. Certainly, when compared with paper cards, digital preference cards are an improvement. Yet upon closer view, it is clear that a digital format is an insufficient hospital solution for effective preference card management.

Digital Preference Cards: Why They’re Not Enough

In our conversations with OR personnel, we usually begin by inquiring as to what the hospital’s current process is for managing preference cards. The most common response by far is something along the lines of, “Oh, we use EPIC.” But upon closer inquiry, it quickly becomes clear that virtually none of these hospitals have any preference card management process at all. EPIC, other EHR platforms, and similar software systems allow for storage and editing of preference cards, but the actual process of managing them remains entirely manual. Preference card edits reach clinical staff in an ad hoc fashion, by word of mouth from frustrated surgeons, on handwritten notes, or via communication passed through the grapevine. Edits are made irregularly and are often neglected until the cards have atrophied enough that they must be addressed. A push to update cards occurs every once in a while: an agonizing process that must be repeated as soon as cards deteriorate again. Supply chain is still left entirely out of the picture, as few of these platforms integrate with the hospital’s ERP system or Item Master.

Digital preference card platforms and modules may offer security and reduce some level of human error, but they do little to solve the problem of preference card management. In order for hospitals to manage preference cards successfully, solving the numerous issues the cards create and making real use of the data the cards contain, they must adopt Preference Card Management (PCM) software.

Preference Card Management (PCM) Software: The Optimal Hospital Solution

PCM software not only houses preference card data, but it also enables hospitals to use that data to make decisions. Effective PCM software will automate the difficult task of tracking supply use in the OR to determine whether items should remain on cards. It will allow users to compare card cost to identify less costly replacements and standardize supplies across the hospital system. And it will integrate preference card data with supply chain data so that purchasing decisions are backed by accurate data. PCM software should enable users to identify where the greatest areas of opportunity lie, so that the cards or service lines with the greatest amount of waste can be targeted for optimization. Supply chain users should be able to build projections to see the effect supply changes would have across all preference cards in the hospital. An ideal system will have various levels of user permissions so that physicians and supply chain users can employ their expertise in a controlled environment, submitting changes for review before final approval by the service lead. With automation, integration, and proactive and continuous analysis, preference card management software proves the optimal hospital solution.

PrefTech is the nation’s leading provider of Preference Card Management (PCM) software. The company emerged in response to a deeply felt need for a modern and effective way to fix and maintain surgical preference cards, rather than relying on the usual temporary fixes and ad hoc processes. For more information about PrefTech, take a closer look at how the software works or contact us today.