Good database keeps inventory on track

Know what you have, what you need

Written materials are a mainstay of patient education. As a result of their value, the inventory can become quite large, which requires the need for a good tracking system.

To track materials, many healthcare institutions have created a database. At Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH, all titles approved by the patient education committee, whether commercially purchased or written in-house, are kept in an Access database, reports Janet L. Petty, MLIS, AHIP, associate librarian at Craig Memorial Library.

The following information is entered for each item: title, type (handout, brochure, booklet), online edition, readability level, assigned subject heading, item number, publication date, shelving location, deletion date, other location information, notes, date record, and last updated.

Petty says the advantage of using Access database is that items can be tracked according to use by day, month, year, and departments. A number of reports can be generated from the data file. For example, a usage report can help staff determine quantities of commercial brochures to order or if a title should be discontinued.

Inventory of patient education materials at Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus, OH, is overseen by Karen Guthrie RN, MS, manager of community and patient education. The materials are provided to two other hospitals within Mount Carmel Health and outpatient facilities as needed. Inventory is kept in two files on a shared intranet site: a purchased/vendor materials file and Mount Carmel print materials. Both files are in alphabetical order and provide a quick way for staff to check resources.

The in-house education booklets on topics such as joint replacement, stroke, and heart failure are printed and stored at an outside company that sends a monthly report on inventory. Guthrie tracks the inventory levels so the booklets can be reviewed and updated a few months before the supply runs out.

A good inventory tracking system makes it possible to discontinue vendor materials when an in-house piece has been written on the topic, says Guthrie.

Although patient education at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles is decentralized, clinicians and departments that create educational handouts are encouraged to put it in a "forms" portal on the Intranet. Clinicians throughout the medical center print off appropriate educational materials for their patients and families, says Laurie Reyen, RN, MN, CNS, a nutrition clinical nurse specialist and co-chair of the Patient Education Committee. It is useful for patients undergoing procedures in all clinical settings to have materials developed by the experts at UCLA. For example, staff in the Neurology Department developed materials on radiology and neuroimaging studies that are common procedures in their patient population. These educational materials can be given to patients in other clinical settings when they have been referred for those procedures. Many in-house materials are specific to the programs offered at the facility, says Reyen.

"Everything is catalogued so all clinicians can access the material," she adds.

The medical center also uses Micromedex handouts (, which are available to clinicians via the computer. The commercially produced educational handouts focus on medications and disease states, and they can be printed in English or Spanish.


For more information about keeping an inventory of written patient education materials, contact:

Karen Guthrie, RN, MS, Manager, Community and Patient Education, Mount Carmel East, Columbus, OH. Telephone: (614) 234-6062. E-mail:

Rose Healy, RN, MS, CNS, Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA. E-mail:

Diane Moyer, BSN, MS, RN, Associate Director, Patient Education, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, OH. Telephone: (614) 293-3191. E-mail:

Janet L. Petty, MLIS, AHIP, Associate Librarian, Craig Memorial Library, Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, OH. Telephone: (937) 208-2624. E-mail:

Laurie Reyen, RN, MN, CNS, Nutrition Clinical Nurse Specialist, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA. E-mail: