The Polyclinic Uses Tribridge Health360 Materials Management and Lean Principles to Optimize Operations and Reduce Costs

For primary and specialty physicians, the patient exam room is center stage. To perform at a high level, the necessary supplies should be at hand, ready for use. Doctors and nurses shouldn't have to go looking for supplies, especially when a patient is waiting.

How often does that happen at your facility? Do nurses hoard supplies for fear they will run out of a needed item? And as a result, are supplies wasted because they expire?

The Polyclinic, a physician-led, multi-specialty clinic with primary and specialty care locations

throughout the greater Seattle area, was experiencing these issues. But clinic leaders took several steps to alleviate the issue, using the Tribridge Health 360 Materials Management solution to track and reorder items on a just-in-time basis.

Achieving a 99% fill-rate at the onset built confidence in the process, which has also reduced inventory turns, carrying cost and waste from expired materials.

Bringing order to a chaotic process

The Polyclinic previously had a manual materials management process, but surveys, physician feedback and observations from The Polyclinic's materials management team revealed that medical supply replenishment was inefficient. Clinical staff, who were already overtasked, had the added burden of reordering from materials management when their perception was that supply volume was low.

The main objective of the project was to improve the delivery and availability of standard medical supplies at the point of use, while decreasing inventory and freeing up clinical staff. But the ancillary benefits could be even greater, including reducing the likelihood of expired supplies, rationalizing the number of SKUs maintained by each practice and reducing the involvement of clinical staff in the ordering/unpacking/storage of supplies.

Jeff Wall, Materials Manager at The Polyclinic, explained that they ultimately wanted to have no more than five days of inventory on hand, which was a very aggressive goal for a clinic supporting 24 different specialty lines.

Tribridge solution tracks supplies, automates ordering

Tribridge assisted The Polyclinic in deploying an innovative, lean manufacturing process commonly used outside the healthcare industry for its materials management: "Kanban." Translated to "card" or "billboard" in Japanese, Kanban is a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing.

Working with each practice, the materials management team started by rationalizing the number of required SKUs, especially for low-usage items. Exam rooms were then standardized, including identical storage compartments for all supplies, with a little wiggle room built in for specialty practices.

Inside each compartment, loose stock is placed and a safety stock bundle is bound by a rubber band with a resupply Kanban card attached. The Kanban card is printed from Tribridge's Materials Management solution powered by Microsoft Dynamics. Once all loose stock is used, the clinician simply removes the rubber band and places the safety stock in the compartment. The clinician then places the resupply card in a slot outside the exam room, where they are picked up by materials staff at night and used to replenish supplies, new loose stock and a new safety stock bundle with an attached Kanban card. The card is scanned into the solution via a handheld device and a replenishment order is created. The scan of the card allocates the cost of the materials to the correct department.

Resupply orders are placed weekly and delivered the next business morning to the central supply closet by the vendor, allowing for just-in-time delivery. The resupply orders are created and the Tribridge solution creates the requisition and Purchase Order for the supply orders.

The project was executed in conjunction with the relocation of 23 disparate departments into a new facility. Materials management developed, piloted, and then fully implemented the revamped replenishment approach within six months, which was timed with each practice move. Materials management bundled and loaded all 340 exam rooms before staff moved in, thus making exam rooms turn-key ready.

Learn more by downloading the Tribridge success story on The Polyclinic.

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