Supply organization reduces costs and improves patient care

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 11:34am

Saving money can be a challenge in health care, but the key to success can be found with the 5S approach: sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain. Gwen MacDonald, team lead supply tech, implemented the 5S organizational system on the Intermediate Care Unit (3IMCU) at the Halifax Infirmary to improve patient care and save money.

“Our stock room was disorganized, and it was hard to tell what supplies were where and how stocked it was,” says Julia Stuckless, charge nurse on 3IMCU. “There was too much of one thing, not enough of another.”

In November, health services manager Dawnelda Murray invited Gwen to present her project ideas to the 3IMCU team. Over a two-week period, Gwen reorganized each room; everything was washed, labeled and sorted, all while keeping open communication with the staff of 3IMCU.

“Nobody likes change,” says Gwen. “But I made sure the team was as comfortable as can be, and informed about the work I was doing.

With the help of staff on 3IMCU, as well as the maintenance department, more than $6,000 in refunds was saved and around $500 of expired supplies was donated to the skills lab, educators and third-world countries, where safe. 

Sustainability and the future

The most important aspect of the 5S system also happens to be the hardest—sustainability.

“It’s getting there; it just takes time,” says Julia. “When people know where to go to get their supplies it will just become a habit.”

After almost 34 years of working in health care, Gwen recognizes too much money is wasted on “just in case.” Looking ahead at what is needed for daily and weekly use, as well as rotating supplies, can eliminate expired, unused products and help maintain the flow of stock. 

Based on the success the 5S approach has had on 3IMCU, Dawnelda and the team plan to continue creating a work space that benefits both employees and patients.​​