Improve Patient Care by Cutting Costs



No one in Hospice wants to think that money is in any way driving decisions regarding patient care, but it is and always will be.  It costs money to care for Hospice patients.  Everyone knows a hundred reasons why money is getting scarcer, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter why, it only matters that what funding is available is used to optimize patient comfort and care.  Managing resources IS patient care and is critical to delivering on Hospice’s mission.

The largest cost for hospice is staff.  The dedicated people who work in Hospice are also its greatest asset.   Whether paid staff, volunteers or clinical staff, everyone is there to bring aid and comfort to patients and their families as they deal with the tough emotions surrounding end of life.

One of the most productive ways to increase patient (and staff) satisfaction is to free your team from as many non-patient care functions as possible.  Instead of only looking at your supply chain as an expense, look at it as a staff time freer.  Your distributor’s core competency is managing inventory and assuring it is where it is supposed to be.  As the middle man between the manufacturer and end users, distributors have always been squeezed on margin and can only survive by constantly finding ways to take costs out.  For a distributor, most of the time these new found efficiencies are a direct result of process management, automation, and/or using data to track performance and identify inefficiencies and inconsistencies.   These tactics can, and should, be incorporated into any hospice’s management of their supply chain.

There are many ways partnering with your distributor, and leveraging their expertise, can save you staff time:

Logistics & Processes

  • Organize your storeroom
    • To locate product quickly
    • Establish PAR levels
    • Easily identify  excess, unused, damaged, or expired product
  • Streamline ordering
    • Develop an ordering template for frequently used items
    • Install ordering processes to make ordering easier, faster, and more accurate. e.g.,
      • Online ordering
      • Barcode scanning
      • Ordering bedside
    • Reduce the cost and stress of “emergency” deliveries
  • Optimize deliveries
    • Evaluate“ship tos” directly to patient’s
      • “Bag and Tag” orders and track to each specific patient
  • Receiving & paying
    • Customize packing slips & invoices to reduce “touches”,  time, and discrepancies
    • Delivery schedules that coincide with your staffing
  • Usage Accountability
    • Tools for usage capture
    • Flag off-formulary items
    • Reports comparing usage by site, patient or clinician
    • Benchmark usage across locations

Any of the above can save labor and/or identify opportunities.  Most importantly, they allow hospice management to actually quantify improvement.  But each hospice is different and faces different operational challenges.  A good distributor partner will understand each hospice’s requirements and capabilities and create service models and share processes and procedures accordingly.   

Another operational area that a distributor can help you drive better outcomes is by supporting you with the tools you need to track staff compliance to protocols.  (Note: The distributor can also facilitate protocol development by working with suppliers that offer hospice specific formularies and provide support material and in-services for them).  The main benefit of developing formularies and assuring that they are complied with is, of course, knowing that the care being given conforms to the same high standard across all patients.  Additionally, formulary compliance also supports both good inventory management and optimal pricing.

Of course, “price” is important, but how many cases of diapers, saving $.50 a case, do you need to offset an FTE spending 10-20 hours per week on inventory management and supply chain paperwork?

If your distributor is not interested in partnering with you beyond product supply, get a new distributor.


- Billy Bindel