The Healthcare Hub

Inventory Count Uncovers Safety and Compliance Problems at One Hospital

posted by: Rebecca Johnson & Desi Bryant
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Some concerning safety problems we’ve discovered while performing inventories at hospitals.

Our team performs nearly 800 inventory counts at healthcare facilities every year. While conducting an accurate count is the primary objective, our work often unearths critical pieces of information for hospitals. In two recent cases, that information related to safety and compliance problems associated with controlled substances.

The Drug Enforcement Administration requires that healthcare practitioners provide effective physical security safeguards for controlled substances, and that they initiate additional safety procedures related to controlled substances. The hope is that these safeguards will reduce access to these drugs by unauthorized persons, therefore minimizing the opportunity for theft or diversion.

Bringing Undetected Problems to Light
In the first recent case where we found a problem related to controlled substances, our team was conducting inventory in a storage area at a 700-bed hospital. There, our counter found a Schedule II drug vial mixed in with the non-controlled products. He immediately brought the vial to a nurse and informed her of the situation.

Though this hospital has a strong safety record and commitment to safety, errors and problems like this can crop up at many—if not all—hospitals, and it’s not the first time our team has experienced this type of scenario.

In this case, the nurse and the hospital responded appropriately, and they immediately implemented steps to ensure nothing like this would happen again. However, not all hospitals (particularly those that aren’t monitoring inventory regularly) have the appropriate measures in place to identify safety and compliance problems like this one—and rectify them—so quickly.

In the second recent case where we encountered a potential safety and compliance problem, we were conducting inventory at an ambulatory surgery center. There, we found discrepancies between the narcotic log and the physical count. We immediately brought the problem to the charge nurse’s attention. In this situation, the nurse found errors in the log and was able to correct them. However, if something more concerning had been going on, the problem may have continued undetected.

Embracing a More Proactive Approach
Data suggest that a growing number of hospital leaders recognize the many benefits of supply chain optimization. Eighty seven percent believe it can improve their hospital margins, and 86% say it can improve care quality, according to a recent survey of 100 hospital and supply chain leaders. The above two cases also underscore the positive effects supply chain optimization can have on hospital safety and compliance.

Hospitals have the best intentions, but it’s nearly impossible to catch every inventory problem that can arise, even the highly critical issues that relate to safety and compliance. Regularly monitoring inventory can help by shining a light on problems that hospitals are unaware of—and by ensuring that these problems are identified before they escalate into more serious issues.

The Inventory Diaries: A multi-part blog series
Each year, Syft’s Inventory Services Team visits more than 600 hospitals and other health facilities. Their work is about much more than providing accurate inventory counts. Often, they shed light on critical information that saves hospitals money and leads to higher quality care.

This blog series, written by the Inventory Services Team, shares those stories: