How hospital supply chain management strategies can accommodate shorter patient stays

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One of the points of emphasis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act is "better patient outcomes and shorter patient stays," according to an article for Supply & Demand Chain Executive. This is good news for both hospitals and patients. Reducing the amount of time spent in a healthcare facility can allow physicians to see more people with medical issues, while studies have shown that shorter stays lead to better outcomes for patients. 

Patients can benefit from short stays
A study that was published in the December 2012 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine conducted by researchers at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System suggested patients should stay for only as long as is strictly necessary.

"Everyone is different …one patient might be able to go home within 48 hours," said Dr. Peter Kaboli, a hospitalist at the Iowa City VA Health Care System and the study's lead researcher. "Another patient might not be able to go home for five days."

Keeping patients hospitalized after the danger has passed may actually be bad for their health. When studying the records of more than 4 million veterans hospitalized at 129 VA medical centers between 1997 and 2010, the researchers concluded that focusing on communication between the patient, the patient's family and hospital staff can allow for a more personalized experience, while also ensuring that the person in need of medical attention can get in and out as quickly as possible.

Effective hospital inventory management is needed for shorter stays
While most physicians don't want their patients to be around for too long, many times it isn't their fault a patient isn't discharged in a more timely manner. In some instances, they don't have the necessary medical equipment they need to carry out certain procedures, while other times, supply-chain managers may not have provided doctors and nurses with the right medical devices. According to Supply & Demand Chain Executive, inventory management can't be an issue in order for healthcare facilities to comply with the ACA.

Hospital supply-chain managers need to communicate with a team of cross-specialty physicians who can speak for all of the doctors and nurses at the healthcare organization to ensure that everyone has the equipment and devices to get their patients in and out efficiently. It is imperative that physicians provide as much feedback as possible to ensure the most streamlined supply chain.