The Hospital Supply Chain & Patient Satisfaction

Published on November 8, 2017

How changes to your supply chain can make a positive impact on patient satisfaction scores

To the majority of those on the outside of healthcare materials management, including your organization’s patients, the link between the supply chain and patient satisfaction may not be clear. After all, supply chain staff and executives don’t have a lot of face time or personal contact with patients, but it’s not just about suppliers, distributors, and inventory management. The decisions that supply chain staff make play a vital role in patient experience. Many of the decisions that affect clinical processes, which impact patient satisfaction, are made by supply chain. If you manage the supply chain in a way that makes the clinician’s job easier and more efficient, patient satisfaction improves.

How do patients rate their experience?

According to the American Nurses Association, the concept of patient experience is complex and generally linked with patient satisfaction. In recent years, patient experience has become a metric to measure payment systems for quality, putting the topic in focus beyond a one-day seminar or board room bullet point. A lack of consistent terminology and the perceived interchangeability of “patient experience” and “patient satisfaction” add hitches to an already challenging concept. Generally speaking, a patient satisfaction score is based on what a patient experiences before, during, and after an episode of care, including environmental factors.

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, which was created to standardize the collection of data to measure patient perspectives on hospital care, measures patients’ perspectives through their responses to 21 factors organized into nine topics: communication with doctors, communication with nurses, responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, communication about medicines, discharge information, cleanliness of the hospital environment, quietness of the hospital environment, and transition of care.

Ultimately, patient experience is either good or bad, and they rate everything – even the quality of the food in the cafeteria impacts patient satisfaction scores. They use their own experiences & word of mouth to make decisions about where they seek care.

How supply chain & patient satisfaction go hand-in hand

Becker’s Hospital Review reported1 that in a recent survey, respondents identified the healthcare supply chain as a key business tool and an essential element in ensuring quality patient care. Some physicians and nurses spend up to 20 percent of their time on supply chain tasks— like locating supplies — instead of caring for patients. Providers also experience situations where necessary items aren’t available for a procedure or a desired product is expired. These situations can affect process flow and efficiency, job satisfaction, and patient safety.

Many aspects of supply chain management have the potential to impact patients. You may ask, what areas should my organization focus on? Two general goals that have the potential to impact patient satisfaction are:

  • The availability of supplies – Are those surgical sutures and wound closure kits where they need to be?
  • Product selection – Wherein the most cost-effective choice is not always the best choice for patients.

Availability of supplies

Delays in patient care due to misplaced or missing supplies or equipment impacts patient experience and satisfaction. Even a patient who only observes such a situation and whose care is not impacted notes interaction between employees. Experiencing or observing such a situation has the potential to negatively influence patient experience.

The importance of having the right product in the right place at the right time should not be downplayed. Becker’s reports that nearly one in four hospital staff have seen or heard about a recalled or expired product used on a patient, and more than half recall a time when a physician didn’t have a product required for a patient’s procedure.

Product selection

There are a multitude of factors that supply chain executives consider when making a product selection, including (but not limited to) physician preference, cost, ease of use, standardization, and more. Tossing in yet another consideration – is this choice best for physicians and patients? – may feel like throwing a wrench in an already complicated process. However, product choice obviously impacts patient care and thus impacts patient satisfaction.

Product choice is important, and how those products are used and how smoothly procedures go also make a big impact. Supply chain, however, can make procedures easier by selecting the best products for both physician and patient needs. When you streamline product choice, you make the clinician’s job easier.

Patient safety and cost likely top the list of why you choose a specific product or piece of equipment, but organizations should also consider the potential impact of using older products. While the old product might do the job, and you’re trying to avoid spending millions on new technology, that old equipment likely takes longer and/or is more uncomfortable for the patient. Again, these are observations your patients will undoubtedly make.

If your organization isn’t receiving the patient satisfaction scores it expected, don’t settle for being a “C” student! There are likely opportunities throughout your facility that could make a positive impact on patient experience, including changes and enhancements to supply chain techniques.

  1. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/supply-chain/why-the-supply-chain-is-a-health-system-s-most-untapped-resource-and-how-to-unlock-its-value.html

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