Surgery center staff can help save surgery centers thousands of dollars in supply costs. They also can find ways to prevent shortages from disrupting operations.

Supplies are the second-largest expense for ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), according to Scott Jackson, executive director of Henry Schein.

“Supplies can easily consume 25% of a center’s entire yearly budget,” he reports. “This number is likely to increase as a center begins to perform more device-intensive procedures, such as spine, total joints, and cardiac procedures.”

Train staff to be sensible with supplies. Surgery centers should take every conservation measure they can to prevent unnecessary consumption of personal protective equipment (PPE), says Chaun Powell, MBA, group vice president of strategic supplier engagement for Premier Inc. “They need to make sure they’re best prepared should there be an additional flare-up in the fall,” Powell adds.

Staff can waste supplies, notes Gail Horvath, MSN, RN, CNOR, CRCST, senior patient safety analyst at ECRI. For instance, some staff will throw away unused half sheets when they could have been saved for future use in draping patients.

“I had nurses open four half sheets when they only needed one,” Horvath says. “I had them bag everything open to the field that they didn’t use. The amount of money going into the trash was astronomical.”

Horvath made a presentation showing this waste. One nurse said, “I didn’t realize we were a business. I came in to this to help people.” Horvath asked the nurse to imagine what would happen if too much of the budget went to supplies, which might lead to the nurse not receiving her next paycheck.

“She said, ‘I would quit,’ and I said, ‘See, it is a business to you,’ and she became one of my best managers,” Horvath recalls.

Framing the problem this way, in terms the staff can understand, will hammer home the message. For instance, a manager could say the amount of money spent on supplies needlessly ending up in the trash could pay for sending two nurses to a conference or adding another employee to the staff.

“When you tell people this, they’ll buy into it,” Horvath says. “Be open and transparent with staff.” Another way to secure staff buy-in is to form a custom pack committee of staff members. The committee should look for ways to spare supplies that are used infrequently. For instance, the packs might include a $15 item that is used only once in 20 procedures. Rather than include that item in each pack, meaning it would be thrown out 95% of the time, staff could place that on a shelf where it could be found when needed.

“We eliminated over $2 million a year at a health system after having a custom pack committee,” Horvath reports.

Involve clinicians in supply management decisions. “Make sure you have clinicians involved in your supply chain, even if they’re just advisors,” says Bruce Hall, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS, vice president and chief quality officer for BJC HealthCare. “There will be a lot of decisions facing us in the future about one product substituting for another that you need clinicians helping out.”

The best supply management includes clinical cooperation with the supply team through meetings and discussions about how to make the stockpiling of supplies more efficient — but also ready for a major supply chain disruption. “We want good [financial] margins and good safety margins, and we can’t leave any pennies on the table,” Hall says. “The decision-making needs to be very clinically informed, with clinicians and supply professionals working together at all times.”