Regulations and recommendations surrounding out-of-date or expired medical supplies are relatively vague compared to the rest of the medical industry’s guidelines. While it’s clear that expired medical supplies are dangerous to have on hand in case they are used on a patient, leading medical organizations don’t have clear procedures for repurposing or removing expired products from your hospitals.
Of course, there are quite a few routes that you can take when determining what to do with your hospital’s expired medical supplies. First, let’s jump into how supply waste and excessive expired supplies are becoming a growing issue in the industry.
The problem of expired medical supplies
The obvious problem of expired medical supplies is the potential harm they carry for hospital patients. Though you might think of this issue as unlikely, surveys have told a different story. According to the Becker Hospital Review, 24% of hospital workers have seen or heard of an expired product being used on a patient. It’s possible that one quarter of your staff has witnessed this event taking place, and, without being made aware, you haven’t been able to implement any initiatives to affect meaningful change in this area. That means that your patients are at risk of having expired medical supplies used on them while they’re under your care.
On top of patient safety concerns, the amount of supply waste that occurs in a typical hospital system is unsustainable. The National Academy of Medicine estimated that the U.S. healthcare system wasted $765 billion a year in their supply chain.
If you can get ahead of that waste with the help of proactive notices from an expiration date management system, you have the ability to redirect that supply waste into something useful for research or hospitals overseas, and maybe even put a bit of money back on your bottom line.
What to do with expired medical supplies
Transfer to another department prior to expiration
When you receive a notification from your expiration date management system that supplies in your inventory are close-dated, you can take action on them and ensure that they don’t end up in a landfill.
Your best option for close-dated supplies is to transfer those items to another department within your hospital system that can find a use for them before they expire. Basic items like sutures and gloves can be used in a variety of hospital departments. Not only will you be solving your own excess supply problem, you’ll stay ahead of your expired supplies and provide other departments with the inventory they need to adequately do their jobs.
In addition to alleviating a present concern, in the future you’ll be able to adjust your buying habits because you’ll know not to order large quantities of the items that frequently end up close-dated or expired.
If you aren’t able to identify items in your inventory before they expire (because you’re using a manual process or an otherwise ineffective system), donation is an option.
While you won’t be able to donate expired items to other hospitals in America because they’re operating under the same general rules and guidelines as you are, other countries around the world are open to accepting medical supplies that are considered expired in the United States, but have a longer technical shelf life.
There are many organizations that you can partner with in order to donate unused medical supplies, including Project C.U.R.E and Partners for World Health. By donating items that are no longer usable in your hospital, you can feel good knowing that you didn’t contribute to the global issue of supply waste, and that you’re contributing to the healthcare of patients around the world.
Return to vendor for credit
Many medical supply vendors provide the option of returning excess supplies for a credit, if you’re only willing to do a little bit of extra work. Though this option requires paperwork and calls with vendor representatives, it can end up saving your hospitals money in the long run.
If you have close relationships with your vendors, or if you buy a majority of your supplies over and over from a handful of suppliers, it can be worth it to dig into their policies and reach out to see what’s possible for your account. Often, they’re more than happy to work with you on this issue, as supplying you with a credit means return business for them, and your continued loyalty as a client.
Sell excess or close-dated items
If you’ve looked into the previous three options and determined that they won’t work for your hospitals or for a specific supply that’s expired in your inventory, selling those excess and close-dated items could be a possibility.
Companies like Surgical Product Solution and eSutures will pay you for excess supplies, not just a vendor credit. eSutures will also buy some expired items for pennies on the dollar, though the optimum selling point is six months prior to product expiration. Investing in an expiration date management system that lets you know when to take action on close-dated items could not only save you money, it could also add revenue to your bottom line.
How to make sure your employees are making the right decision
When your employees are conducting inventory sweeps or supply room audits, they need to be aware of all of the choices above when it comes to expired products. When they identify items that need to be repurposed, they should have a clear understanding of what action to take based on your hospital’s policies and priorities.
However, hospital staff have far larger concerns than inventory. Their days are filled with hectic energy and a focus on patient care, which can make it difficult to prioritize information about what decision to make regarding an expired item in your inventory. In these instances, the best case scenario is that the staff member removes the item from your supply room, even if that means simple disposal. The worst case scenario is that they don’t remove the item at all, preferring to not deal with a decision that has too many factors.
By implementing an expiration date management system into your supply chain operations, you take all the pressure off of your employees to make the correct decision in regards to expired products. Using inventory data and knowledge of your hospital’s preferences and policies, a system like Date Check Pro for Healthcare will guide your employees through the decision-making process when they identify expired or close-dated items, ensuring that the correct supplies are donated, returned to a vendor for credit, sold, or transferred to another department within your hospital.
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