Supply chain cost savings efforts have many more impacts on a health system beyond the bottom line. From my experience in direct patient care, accounts payable, and supply chain analysis, I’ve seen first hand how supply chain savings positively affect patient care and well-being.
Supply Chain and Patient Care: The Big Picture
Before we get into cost savings and patient care, I want to talk for a moment about the overarching ways that supply chain affects patient care. Separate from any conversation about money or savings, supply chain already plays a crucial role in patient care by making sure that all the items a patient needs are available at the right time.
At the most basic level, a doctor’s or nurse’s ability to obtain the necessary items at the right time can be the difference between life and death. In this way, supply chain’s ability to perform its most basic function – getting the right supplies in the right places at the right time – has a massive impact on patient care. And certainly during emergencies or an ongoing pandemic like COVID-19, these responsibilities are more important than ever before.
So before we even get into the cost savings and financial side of things, I want to say thank you to each of you that works in supply chain. Your work may not be flashy or all that visible. It’s behind the scenes. But it matters: you’re making a difference every day. From all of us in healthcare and related industries, thank you!
Now, on to the three ways that supply chain cost savings efforts benefit patient care. First, by reducing financial stress.
1) Supply Chain Savings Relieves Financial Stress on Patients
By reducing supply chain costs, hospitals ultimately reduce the costs passed on to patients. It’s a fact that cost of care is a barrier to some people pursuing needed treatment, so any effort to reduce a patient’s cost of care has the effect of bringing more people “into the tent” so they can receive the care they need.
Patients also tend to seek care more quickly when they aren’t as worried about the financial impacts. And we all know that early intervention is key to achieving better patient outcomes.
We also know that stress negatively affects patient outcomes. This has been studied by many, including Magalhaes and Passos in their study, “Stress, cell senescence and organismal aging” as well as “Biological, psychological, and clinical markers of caregiver’s stress in impaired elderly with dementia and age-related disease” by Neri, Bonati et al.
Both of these studies conclude that stress increases healing time. Stress increases cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cytokines, all of which prolong the healing process.
While financial burdens are not the sole source of stress in patients’ lives, they are a source of stress for many. Efforts in supply chain can reduce the intensity of this stressor, which can directly affect patient outcomes.
2) Supply Chain Savings Improves Quality of Care
Another way that supply chain positively affects patient care is through improving the quality of care. COVID-19 has hit hospitals hard, leading to layoffs in some organizations. And while it’s hard to talk about, it’s pretty simple to draw a direct line between laying off nurses and lower quality of care.
Because of the financial impacts of the pandemic, hospitals have to get by with fewer resources. And the nurses that continue working suffer too: they must work longer hours and cover more patients, leading to burnout (not to mention costly errors and lapses in patient care).
By reducing the cost of supplies, supply chain can offset some of the income a hospital has lost thanks to the pandemic and the pausing or limiting of elective procedures. Assisting the bottom line in this way can have the real-world impact of lessening the number of layoffs (or preventing them entirely).
Of course, what I mentioned earlier about having the right items in the right places at the right time also affects quality of care. Time spent tracking down a missing or delayed item affects quality of care for patients directly. When doctors and nurses can’t instantly access what they need, procedures can be delayed. So can recovery, therapy, discharge, and just about any other aspect of care.
3) Supply Chain Savings through Process Improvement Also Affect the Cost of Care
In addition to improving both the bottom line and patient care through cost savings initiatives, supply chain also has the unique ability to drive change through process improvement. When armed with the right analytical tools like the ones Curvo provides, supply chain teams can often identify areas ripe for process improvement.
One practical example of this is antibiotic bone cement. One Curvo customer used Curvo tools to identify variance in practitioner use of this expensive component. By identifying and querying the potential overuse, supply chain affected change from the “overusing” surgeons, resulting in significant savings for the hospital.
Any process improvement that increases efficiency without sacrificing quality will, in the long run, improve patient care. Efficiency generally translates into reduced costs. And, in addition to the ways already described, reduced costs can free up resources to do more on behalf of patients.
It can be easy for supply chain and physicians alike to grow weary of process improvement initiatives. But when viewed as a way of improving patient care and even patient outcomes, process improvement gains fresh relevance that all parties should appreciate.
Ready to go deeper into cost savings?
At Curvo, I’ve also seen first hand how health systems are making a dent in the cost of healthcare at a higher rate than ever before. If you’re ready to go deeper into cost savings, schedule a demo of our solutions and let’s see how we can partner up on our common goal.