The Healthcare Hub

Surviving a Code Blue in Hospital Supply Chain

posted by: Tina Phillips, Manager Materials Management, Parrish Medical
Thursday, May 23, 2019

What happens when things don’t go as expected? What happens if the schedule changes, a staff member calls in sick, or you are assigned a special project that must be done now and you already have a full plate? The best-laid plans have fallen apart on any number of things in our lives, for each and every one of us. Planning for the unexpected is what gets you through successfully. 

Tina Phillips of Parrish Medical discusses how proactive efforts to boost utilization really paid off with an unexpected staff shortage. It is encouraging to look back and see how your planning paid off at the moment that you never expected.

Let’s talk about supply chain and preparation that can stop supply chain sinkholes from opening up underneath you. Does supply chain make sure every item needed in the hospital arrives when needed and where needed? Yes, that’s our job. Our staff is the heartbeat of our department. No staff, no heartbeat! Here is my story of our “supply chain code blue".

We have three buyers, one serves the cath-lab and peri-operative areas, and the other two enterprise buyers handle everything else—capital, clinical equipment, storeroom inventory, offsite locations, etc.

Historically our patient and procedure volumes drop during the holiday season. Therefore, I approved time off for three days following Christmas for two buyers, the cath-lab buyer and one enterprise buyer, and the enterprise buyer’s vacation would extend until Wednesday, January 2.

The plan was for me and the remaining enterprise buyer to handle a lighter than normal workload, but the buyer scheduled to work the entire holiday season with me reached out on Saturday, December 22 to let me know that her mother had been admitted to hospice care. Her return date was uncertain. So now we had zero buyers for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after Christmas and only the cath-lab buyer until January 2. This felt like a code blue.

The reason many codes go seamlessly is because of the upfront preparation—staff training, the code carts are checked at every shift to ensure every necessary item is sealed and on the cart, and that all equipment is in good working order. They plan for and are prepared for the unexpected.

Preparing with the tools and solutions available means a code blue in supply chain can appear well choreographed too. For Parrish Medical, three GHX solutions were key in our ability to successfully navigate this unforeseen critical staff shortage.

My Exchange
This allows our organization to place orders via electronic data interchange (EDI), saving us time and reducing errors. We are on the phone less with vendors and have gained clarity on the buyer’s orders. My Exchange verifies that the correct unit of measure (UOM) and part numbers were sent to the vendor. If there is an error in the purchase order (PO), we can access the correct data from My Exchange and our buyers update the item dictionary and PO the same day.

Allows us to automate vendors without EDI capability. Our buyers place the order in our MMIS as if it is an integrated trading partner, the PO goes to GHX, and then the order is delivered either by fax or email, saving our staff the time of placing the PO. These orders are found in My Exchange with the same valuable data as when ordering from our EDI connected trading partners, such as contract pricing (by using CCXpert), UOM and part number verification.

This solution helps our organization in sending the correct item pricing. CCXpert verifies our contract price against the PO price and provides the contract number so we can easily validate the suggestion.

The time savings from automation and reduced errors from these solutions allowed me, just the manager, to place all of the orders during the 2018 holiday season. I don't think it would have been possible to place the number of lines ordered if I had needed to pick up the phone, type and email/fax the POs and wait for confirmation. Utilizing the exchange not only saved time up front for those orders, but it also allowed me to correct any UOM/part number or pricing discrepancies that same day—avoiding exception work for the buyers upon their return.

How can you get the most value from your GHX relationship and be prepared for the unexpected? We didn’t get where we are now overnight. The planning and preparation that helped us survive a supply chain code blue began several years ago. You can't just load a handful of vendors and ignore the valuable data from My Exchange. So don’t wait, start putting your “supply chain code cart” in order today.