Cost-saving tip: You can save up to $100,000 on supplies

Are you looking for ways to save money on supplies? Paula Hafeman, RN, MSN, director of the cancer and emergency center at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, WI, has effective strategies to share. Here are several that her ED recently adopted:

• Invest in a barcoding system.

Hafeman’s ED invested $3,500 to implement a barcoding system that prevents overordering of supplies.

"The par levels are set by past usage," she says. "When the order is placed, the number remaining is left, and the computer only orders number to par."

Costs are saved because inventory and usage are frequently reviewed, and par levels are adjusted accordingly, she explains. For example, only two chest trocars are needed of each size, but the barcoding system indicated that there were eight of each on the shelf, she says.

"We also limited the number of people involved in ordering supplies and educated them on the importance of fiscal responsibility," she says. Two ED techs were given eight hours of training that covered usage of supplies, appropriate levels, and areas where the ED was over budget, Hafeman says.

• Share orders with other departments.

To save money, orders are sometimes shared with other departments if a certain item is only sold in a large quantity, Hafeman says. This eliminates overstocking and items expiring, she says.

• Keep supplies on mobile carts.

The ED has switched to keeping supplies on mobile carts instead of in treatment rooms, she says. "We have the essentials to provide care, but not in large quantities," she says.

The carts can be restocked easily and are centrally located to cover several rooms. An effort is made not to duplicate rarely used supplies on the carts, says Hafeman. "If it is on the crash cart, then it does not have to be on other carts," she says.

Specialty carts are used for pediatrics, suture repair, and gynecology.

The ED has about 15 carts, which cost $1,400 each, and estimates that the cost savings is between $80,000 and $100,000 every year, she says. "This is just for supplies and does not take into account the time it saves staff," she adds.

• Carefully review requests for new supplies.

A team of nurses and technicians routinely reviews requests for ED supplies, says Hafeman. "They shop around for the lowest price and then make recommendations," she explains.

When all the facts are in, the nursing and medical directors are consulted, and a decision is made, says Hafeman.

Recently, a physician requested an ear, nose, and throat fiber optic lamp floor stand that cost $9,000. When the team denied the request, the physician shopped around and found a similar piece of equipment for only $1,200, says Hafeman.

Likewise, a recent request for specialty sutures was denied since it was determined that usage would be too low, she says. Instead, a process was put into place to obtain them from the operating room if needed, Hafeman says.

"We do deny requests," she says. "Interestingly, when the requester finds out the cost, they often decide they don’t really need it."

[Editor’s note: Hafeman can be reached at Cancer and Emergency Center, St. Vincent Hospital, P.O. Box 13508, Green Bay, WI 54307-3508. Telephone: (920) 433-8428. Fax: (920) 431-3093. E-mail:

Do you have a cost-saving tip you’d like to share with your peers? Contact Staci Kusterbeck, 280 Nassau Road, Huntington, NY 11743. Telephone: (631) 425-9760. Fax: (631) 271-1603. E-mail:]