Managing inventories of consumables and medical supplies come with a number of challenges for healthcare providers and some have been stepping up their games with IoT solutions.
Healthcare providers are dedicating significant resources to the management of their consumables and medical supplies, commensurate with the challenges presented by the task as well as its critical nature when it comes to patient safety.
Ensuring Patient Safety
Replenishing inventories, balancing costly inventory excess vs. patient-critical supplies, automating labor-intensive counting and documenting, managing expirations and recalls: Increasingly, these operational challenges are turned into opportunities.
What if usage analytics could be used to help eliminate waste, optimize inventory levels and forecast future consumption? What if recall programs could be executed extensively and faster, using data to improve patient safety? What if inventory could be counted seamlessly in the background, freeing up valuable time while improving support for patient care? What if substances and high-value items could come embedded with their own active controls and protections? What if consigned inventories could be managed remotely and automated, easing the healthcare provider-vendor relationship?
Mature IoT Solutions
Adoption at Healthcare Providers is partly driven by the extensive availability of existing RFID capabilities. They take advantage of RFID readers deployed throughout the facility and supplement them with handheld readers as well as dedicated solutions such as weight sensors for bin kits or smart cabinets for consigned inventory and controlled substances.
On the other hand, medical OEMs and distributors have started embedding IoT sensors directly into their consumables and high-value items such as loaner trays, endoscopes, implants, and medical devices. By doing so, they respond to the pressing demands of healthcare providers for tracking, but also to the evolution in the regulatory requirements regarding traceability from manufacturer to patient (such as the FDA's UDI in the U.S., the EU's Medical Device Regulation 2017/745 and In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Device Regulation 2017/746, China CFDA's draft of UDI regulation, and AS/NZS 4187:2014 for Australia and New Zealand).
By doing so, medical OEMs also sense a number of opportunities in terms of new added-value services such as usage analytics, inventory management, replenishment solutions, and other automated purchasing services.