We were recently asked to share any particularly difficult experiences we’ve had managing an organization’s inventory. For us, the biggest challenges have probably been with the IT departments of hospitals. Whenever a hospital brings in a new technology to improve its clinical inventory management, there are always a number of IT hurdles to overcome at the implementation phase – this is normal. But IT problems should never be the cause of implementation delays or failures. Once we had to wade through massive red tape in order to get the right IT forms completed and approved by the appropriate authority – it almost undid the whole process. Another time, our problems were due to an overburdened and poorly managed IT department that could not allocate resources to the effort.
In both of these cases, the clinical users and materials management had been the driving force behind the acquisition and adoption of the new technology, and their IT department was simply not prepared or willing to take on another project. In essence, there was no buy-in. One lesson we learned from these two experiences was that the IT department should always be an active participant in the technology purchasing decision, and should understand from the outset its responsibility to provide complete support to the implementation process.
Thankfully, we have also experienced the opposite – where IT has been an instrumental part of the process, very involved and a true supporter. In hospitals where this has been true, the IT staff had a much more collaborative and accommodating approach toward the clinical users. This is crucial because although there will always be limited resources, the priorities must be driven by the needs of the users on the front line of patient care. Complete buy-in from the IT staff who are also knowledgeable about the applications they support is critical because these staff serve as a central point of communication between the users and the vendors.
Over time, all IT departments will recognize that inventory management has become a core technological part of the hospital environment that will only continue to grow in importance and must be embraced as such, as vital as any other system supported by IT.