Amanda Akers

Preference Card Management and the Healthcare Supply Chain

Preference card management is traditionally considered the responsibility of the operating room and its accompanying staff. The reasoning is understandable: preference cards are employed in the operating room as aids to ensure that operating room setup is accurate. Clinicians who prepare an operating room for a procedure rely on preference cards to know exactly what supplies to pull from inventory so that the operating physician can perform the procedure as planned. On the face of it, the purpose of preference cards appears to relate solely to operating room activity.

But there is another contingent with a compelling interest in preference card management. Preference cards also inform the healthcare supply chain as to what surgical supplies the hospital requires. When clinicians pull supplies from inventory shelves, supply chain uses that information to determine what supplies to keep in stock. Effective preference card management is thus vital to supply chain, as well: when preference cards are inaccurate, supply chain is forced to base ordering decisions on faulty data.

healthcare supply chain

Part of the problem lies in that supply chain rarely, if ever, has access to preference card data, which is often stored in the hospital’s EMR system. Without access to preference cards, supply chain must make ordering decisions based on what happens to be on inventory shelves at any given moment.

The second issue at hand is that a significant percentage of the supplies that are in circulation may not actually be required by the operating surgeon due to ever-changing physician preferences and supply availability. When a preference card lists unneeded supplies – sometimes up to 40% of the items on the card – clinical staff will pull the items anyway, signaling to supply chain that they are required in the operating room. In reality, unneeded supplies are either opened and discarded immediately or returned to inventory shelves. The cycle then continues until the items have lost their sterile integrity and must be thrown away. The result is an unstable supply chain: massive amounts of waste, overstock, expired stock, emergency orders, and the need for excessive inventory space.

The hospital supply chain is deeply influenced by preference card access and integrity, and the need for a sturdy healthcare supply chain has become paramount in recent years. Effective preference card management, therefore, must incorporate a means of collaboration between the operating room and the hospital supply chain. Granting preference card access to supply chain management results in undeniable benefits for the hospital.

Accuracy and Consistency

When preference cards are integrated with supply chain management systems, it ensures that the items listed are accurate and consistent with the available inventory. Any changes in preferences or requirements can be updated promptly across both systems, minimizing the risk of using incorrect or outdated supplies during surgeries. This accuracy and consistency lead to enhanced patient safety and reduced supply waste.

Optimized Inventory Management

Effective supply chain management relies on real-time visibility into inventory levels and consumption patterns. Integrating preference card management with supply chain systems enables healthcare facilities to align their inventory levels with actual usage, reducing the likelihood over overstock or expired stock. With a clear understanding of which supplies are frequently used and which are rarely needed, facilities can make informed decisions about procurement, reducing carrying costs and minimizing storage requirements.

Cost Efficiency

The integration of preference card management with supply chain fosters cost efficiency on multiple fronts. With accurate preference cards and optimized inventory levels, the likelihood of unnecessary purchases or emergency orders is significantly reduced. This leads to cost savings through bulk purchasing, negotiation of favorable contracts, and minimization of rush delivery expenses. Additionally, the reduction in waste due to expired or unused supplies contributes to overall cost savings.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Data is a powerful tool for preference card management because it allows healthcare workers to make informed decisions, both about what should belong on preference cards and what should be kept in inventory. Integrating preference card and supply chain data provides valuable insights into procedure-specific consumption patterns, supplier performance, and cost trends. Facilities can use this data to identify opportunities for standardization, negotiate better pricing with suppliers, and refine preference cards based on historical usage. These data-driven decisions lead to continuous improvement in operational efficiency and resource utilization.

The integration of preference card management with supply chain management is a strategic move that offers healthcare facilities a multitude of benefits. From ensuring card accuracy and consistency to optimizing inventory management and driving cost efficiency, the importance of a connection between these two branches of healthcare operations is indisputable. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve towards increased digitization of outdated processes, embracing such integrations will be essential for delivering high-quality patient care while maintaining operational excellence.