The Healthcare Hub

Inventory Count Uncovers Safety and Compliance Problems at One Hospital

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Hospital inventory counts may reveal compliance and safety problems.

The inventory count team performs nearly 800 inventory counts at healthcare facilities every year. While conducting an accurate count is the primary objective, this work often unearths critical pieces of information for hospitals. In two 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 instance, the team was conducting inventory in a storage area at a 700-bed hospital when they uncovered a problem related to controlled substances. Their 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 this 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, the hospital inventory count team was conducting an audit at an ambulatory surgery center. There, they found discrepancies between the narcotic log and the physical count and 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:

  • 87% believe it can improve their hospital margins
  • 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
Inventory services are 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:

Hospital Inventory Count Services