Can mobile apps help us reach ‘supply Nirvana’?

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | May 12, 2021
From the May 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“I suspect everyone here is supply chain-related, so you don't realize that we speak a foreign language,” said Shumway. “But when you start to work with a clinician, they don't know what you're talking about.”

As Intermountain expanded to other non-acute care settings, they knew they needed to design an app that simplifies the process for those who don’t speak this “language.”

The first thing Shumway and her team did was include end-users in the design process by asking for feedback. They wanted to know what aspects of the system bothered the users and what would make their job easier.

“We were able to really flesh out pain points and see where the standard process wasn’t so standard,” said Shumway.

However, when Shumway’s team brought this feedback to the technicians whose job it was to develop the app, there was pushback. Many of the features that the end-users wanted were difficult to develop.

“We took a field trip with the developers and had them shadow employees as they did their day-to-day work with our current applications and current processes,” said Shumway. “There’s nothing like shadowing to reinforce that your standard processes may or may not be as standard.”

The resulting product was a one-stop tool for supply chain caregivers to do their file maintenance, print the labels and scan for reordering. Users no longer had to go back and forth between the ERP system because about 99 percent of that work is done on the mobile app.

In the non-acute care settings without supply chain personnel, nursing can use the app to scan their badge which identifies who they are, and then they will scan the bin’s barcode. The app’s algorithms identify what they should order to fill the bin.

By combining the health system’s Kanban and their mobile app, Intermountain is able to reduce their ordering time by 85 percent.

“[Now] we don’t have wrong products being ordered, we don't have wrong unit measures being ordered, and we don’t order big, unnecessary quantities just because it’s simple to do that,” said Shumway.

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