Stockpiling success: New inventory project enhances patient care

October 12, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Providing world-class patient care doesn’t begin at the bedside — it takes the hard work and collaboration of teams across the organization.

Throughout October — Quality Month at Michigan Medicine — the organization is celebrating those who have successfully worked together to improve care for patients, families and colleagues.

One such team is led by Kristine Komives, the associate director of Supply Chain/Material Services. Komives is the project lead for a multidisciplinary group that has been redesigning where medical inventory is located and maintained. Before the project began, supply rooms had no consistent organization, which was particularly problematic for employees working in multiple units or floating across units.

“Over the past two years, the teamwork I have seen from individuals in various departments to improve our patient care processes has been remarkable,” said Komives. “We have worked together to make our operations more efficient, leading to improved clinical care and patient safety — something we’re all incredibly proud of.”

A before-and-after look at the inventory project.

A proactive approach 

In December 2015, Komives was tasked with improving how products are supplied and stored in patient care areas as part of an effort to reduce waste and improve the quality of care.

“We were immediately able to identify some inefficiencies with how catheters, gloves and other important items were stored and stocked within individual units,” Komives said. “So we brought together stock keepers, nurses, unit hosts and inventory control staff members. We let everyone voice their concerns and help design the processes that would create an entirely new system that is more efficient and effective.”

Among the findings were that some bins didn’t adequately hold supplies, there were too many of some products and too few of others, hard-to-read labels made it difficult to find items in a timely manner and there was no routine review with clinical staff to determine what was needed on the floor.

“We were concerned that clinicians were spending too much time hunting for supplies as opposed to caring for our patients,” Komives said.

So the team designed a layout for the supply rooms that follows a head-to-toe anatomical layout that was already familiar to clinical staff. Labels for products were improved to focus on critical information, and a replenishment system was introduced that encourages the use of older products first and reduces the time stock keepers spend reordering supplies.

A robust forecasting model was also developed to ensure the right amount of stock is available to care for patients. Finally, the team worked hard to place products closest to where they need to be.

“We moved some products that are used regularly from the supply rooms to nursing carts outside patient rooms,” Komives said. “We moved others that are used less frequently into the supply rooms. All of the changes were designed using safety standards developed by clinical studies to streamline and improve patient care.”

Making better use of resources

The program has been piloted in several units at University Hospital, including 5C and Adult Emergency Services, and the results have been meticulously tracked. In the first few months, supplies run out far less frequently and clinicians are making significantly fewer trips to the supply room.

“We are making better use of the organization’s resources and each of our staff member’s time,” said Sarah Lane, clinical nursing director of 5C and a member of the project team. “Our nursing staff played such a major role in this project because we were constantly asking them for feedback and ideas — and as we implemented changes, they could see that their voices were being heard.”

Komives said that sentiment was felt in other departments, as well: “Our stock keepers have found it easier to replenish and keep track of supplies because store rooms are cleaner and function similarly from unit-to-unit. It’s been a big positive step forward for everyone involved.”

Feedback will continue to be solicited as tweaks to the new system are made.

“We are in the midst of a continuous improvement model,” Komives said. “Our aim is to design a system that can be copied and emulated in units across the medical center and ambulatory clinics. We’re going to get this right, no matter how long it takes.”

This project will be one of many featured at the Quality Month 2017 poster session on Oct. 24. Click here for more information.