How to prevent expired waste: 3 parts of an expiration management system

This post is excerpted from our latest eBook, The Quick-Guide to Healthcare Expiration Date Management.

While the first step in managing expired products is creating a way to pull and record expired or about-to-expire items so they are not inadvertently used on a patient, more is needed to minimize losses due to expiration in the future.

Once you’ve developed a system for managing expired products and have trained frontline staff to use it, expand upon your system to accomplish three key prevention goals:

1. Ensure products nearing expiration are rotated for first-use

At every check interval, make sure the closed-dated items are in the front position so they are pulled first when used. In baskets and loose bins, bring closed dated items to the top and consider using a separator sheet between close dated and the remaining inventory if products easily shift.

2. Ensure items nearing expiration are labeled as such

Expiration dates can be printed too small, illegibly, or only on master cartons making proper expiration date management very difficult. Adding a vibrant, “Use First” sticker to these items will add additional visibility, and increase the likelihood of use prior to expiration.

3. Ensure items nearing expiration are moved to where they’re most likely be used

For high-value and frequently expired items, evaluate usage by location. If a low usage item is nearing expiration, consider transferring it to a different location within the facility that has higher usage levels.

To accomplish these goals without excessively burdening staff, start by implementing a quarterly expiration monitoring program to ensure all supply storage locations are checked for outdates and soon-to-expire items regularly.

We’ve summarized the four key parts of a basic monitoring program below. Use this as a template to inform your training program:

1. Implement quarterly storage checks to rotate items and document accordingly

Each quarter, assign material handling staff to check and rearrange items in storage so the oldest products (those set to expire first) are clearly positioned in front. During this check, staff should remove any expired items they find and document their actions in detail.

2. Use color-coded markers to easily identify close-dated items

Apply color coded stickers to items in storage associated with each month of the year so material handlers can arrange items accordingly. Reserve one color to denote items that will expire within the quarter (before the next check). This simple system makes training a matter of memorizing colors while also making it easy for supply staff to both notice and use items set to expire soon.

3. Consider which items are used more frequently in certain departments and move them accordingly

If certain items are used more frequently in some departments rather than others, move short-dated items to those areas of higher-use.

4. Pull items with that month’s sticker and document it at the end of each month

Conduct a quick storage check at the end of each month to pull all items marked with that month’s sticker off the shelf, documenting those discarded items in detail. This task can be handled by supply techs in each department, or by a single individual.

To learn more tips for developing an expiration date management program for your healthcare system, download our free guide.

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