How to Institute a Waste-Free Physician Culture

A doctor performing a surgery in a waste-free physician culture

Hospital systems are notorious hotbeds of hoarding and waste. Studies have been published in recent years that showcased just how bad the problem is to the tune of $765 billion worth of supplies wasted every year.

The truth is, these bad habits have simply become part of physician culture. Waste is not something that many physicians consider (of course, their job is to focus on the health of your patients, so you can’t blame them entirely). However, it is imperative for hospital systems to reduce their waste output in order to keep medical costs down and their bottom line in the black. 

It starts by revamping the physician culture. Here’s how to get your hospital staff on board with a waste-free culture:

How to Institute a Waste-Free Physician Culture

Raise awareness of current waste in your hospital system

Before your staff will come around to the idea of changing their habits and behaviors to reduce waste, they need to understand how large of an issue it is, not just in the healthcare industry, but in the hospital that they themselves are working. Potentially even in the department they’re in.

Do a bit of research, tracking how much waste your hospital is creating over the course of a month, and develop a baseline for your staff to measure themselves off of. When you make everyone involved aware of the larger issue, you provide a “why” behind the “what”.

Complete a supply room audit

The best way to set your physicians and hospital staff up for success is by doing the administrative work of removing the barriers to becoming waste free. To kick off this step of the process, complete a supply room audit. Ask yourself these questions:

What supplies and equipment are you using all the time? Give physicians an opportunity to fill out preference cards after patient visits or operating procedures. They’ll be sure to let you know which supplies they need in every session, and which only come in handy once in awhile.

What supplies do you never use? Which supplies expire often and create waste? The preference cards used in the step above will come in handy in this case as well. In addition to referencing those physician-completed forms, check for expired supplies and equipment with your expiration date management system. Remove items that have already expired, and make a note of which are close to expiring. Chances are, you can remove these supplies from your “to order” list, and subsequently remove the opportunity for waste.

Reward physicians whose departments makes significant progress

Finally, positive reinforcement has a great reputation for a reason. When physicians and hospital staff make an effort to reduce waste (either by completing preference cards, cutting down on niche supply requests, etc.), reward them. Track expired rates within each department and reward the team that has the largest improvement. It doesn’t matter if the reward is simply recognition, or something more grand like a financial or material reward. If your team feels like you are valuing their efforts, they will make a concerted effort to adjust their culture.