Why Hospital Inventory Control Is Keeping Administrators Up At Night


While the theft of health data is more common in the headlines, a costly and staggering assortment of physical objects disappear from hospitals or are lost/misplaced every year which reduces efficiency, raises costs, and hurts the bottom line. Hospital inventory control is an issue that keeps many hospital administrators up at night. Missing medical equipment in healthcare settings decreases productivity, increases spending to replace losses, and potentially endangers patient safety.

Lost and Stolen Equipment

In an investigation conducted by WISH-TV I-Team 8, they discovered that more than $1 million worth of medical equipment disappeared from the Indianapolis VA Roudebush Medical Center in recent years. At best, VA officials concede that the losses are small in terms of the inventory's size, but may indicate poor record-keeping. At worst, the records show a systemic pattern of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items that go missing each year at the Indianapolis VA. Some of the lost items - like a $28,000 surgical drill or $22,000 worth of patient lifts - have vanished without explanation. Other items, like smaller hand-held medical devices, may have been stolen, documents show.

I-Team 8's review of three years' worth of inventory records from the Indianapolis VA found that - between 2014 and 2016 - the Indianapolis VA lost more than $1.5 million worth of items. Those same records show about $520,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment were later discovered upon additional searches. That leaves the total amount of missing equipment over that time period at more than $992,000.

In an era where healthcare costs are increasing at the same time that hospital profitability is decreasing, hospital administrators are challenged with finding new ways to run their organizations more efficiently – and that’s where hospital inventory control comes into play.

Lost and stolen equipment costs the healthcare industry millions each year. In 2015, the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA, reported 383 items missing from 2010 to 2014, valued at more than $11 million. Loss or theft of equipment has a two-pronged impact:

  • The next patient who arrives may not have immediate access to lifesaving equipment that has been lost or stolen, and
  • The hospital must divert scarce resources to replace the stolen objects.

Understanding the Effects of Bad Hospital Inventory Control

By not controlling hospital inventory and knowing where vital equipment is or who might be using it is a blow to the already tight profit margins in healthcare, and consequently raises costs for both hospitals and patients.

Hospital inventory control gives management the level of visibility they need to maximize their resources. With an accurate working knowledge of where each asset is, hospitals can avoid overbuying assets because they don’t know where they are. In terms of purchasing power, when you have a better handle on your items in inventory, you know how they’re utilized, how much they’re utilized, when they need to be serviced, and if there are supplies associated with them, how many supplies you need to order.

survey by Nursing Times suggests nurses spend roughly one week a month hunting for equipment and supplies. The time wasted can slow response times and delay procedures, compromising patient safety. Patients lives are in their caregivers' hands. There isn’t time to search for missing or lost items or track down a replacement piece of equipment because the original one is broken and no one reported it.

Maintaining, distributing, and tracking medical supplies and inventory is critical for patient care and proper billing. Now, with the increased use of asset and inventory tracking in conjunction with mobile technology, hospitals are taking a critical step towards better hospital inventory control and management.

How Hospital Inventory Control Can Make an Impact

Here are 3 important areas where hospital inventory control as part of an overall asset tracking software platform make an impact:

Medicine & Pharmaceuticals

Hospitals have an ever-growing and changing supply of medicines and pharmaceuticals that must be tracked in order to keep plenty on hand for their patients. Inventory tracking solutions used to involve manual counts and data entry of barcodes which takes time for staff members to complete. Using asset tracking software that electronically scans barcodes with built-in barcode scanners and uploads data to one central location that can be viewed by allocated users reduces the amount of time spent counting, which in turn allows medications to be counted more often, ensuring accurate data is reported and the correct types and amounts of drugs are on hand.

Surgical Tools

Surgical tools like scalpels, scissors, clamps, and retractors are needed for surgeries daily; so, this equipment needs to always be on hand, clean, disinfected, and ready to use. Studies show that surgical instruments in hospitals are found to carry bacteria from previous use, either due to not being sterilized or not being sterilized properly. Tracking these items, each equipped with easily scanned barcodes, before and after each use helps ensure that each tool was sterilized prior to use and is checked back in and ready to use with the next patient.

Large Equipment

Hospital beds, miscellaneous portable testing machines, patient transport items like wheelchairs, etc. are high-value items in hospitals that can occasionally go missing or get misplaced. Keeping track of these items is critical in hospitals because the replacement cost is very high. Some of these assets are not readily available if one is missing/broken and takes time to replace.  Using hospital inventory control software is an ideal way to keep up with these assets within the building or across the campus.

With so much to keep track of in today’s hospital settings, Asset Panda makes it easy to locate medical equipment, access maintenance records, and ascertain the status of each piece of equipment. This anytime anywhere access to information makes it easier for hospital officials to make more informed decisions and keep the focus on patient care.

Asset Panda offers the most powerful system available for asset tracking in hospitals; yet, it couldn’t be simpler to use. All your employees need to use Asset Panda are the mobile devices they already carry. Through our free mobile iOS and Android app, you have anytime access to the entire lifecycle of every one of your assets. Because the app syncs with the cloud, your data is always in real time. Asset Panda gives you a completely customizable, flexible platform that every one of your stakeholders can use – so your employees are always in the loop and accountable.


Learn more about our hospital inventory control software and try it free for 14 days (no credit card required).


Audra London

Audra London, founder of Conceptual Communications, LLC, has over 10 years of writing, public relations and marketing experience and serves as an expert on press releases, media relations, feature writing, web content and marketing copy.

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