Basics of Healthcare Linen Inventory Management for Outpatient Facilities

January 20, 2020 by Nixon Medical

Outpatient facilities spend around 20% of revenue on supplies.1 This significant percentage means inventory is big business to suppliers, not to mention mission-critical to outpatient facilities and staff.

From patient and clinician garments to bed and bath linens, healthcare linen inventory management is important to a well-run outpatient facility. Proper healthcare linen inventory management translates into more streamlined care, cost savings, and a better patient experience, which means reimbursement.

How effective is your facility’s healthcare inventory management program? Are you constantly restocking shelves and rebuying scrubs? Do you find yourself counting items and wondering what’s happened to your plentiful stock? Are your clinicians often missing scrubs or requesting more linens?

If you relate to one or more of these scenarios, read on to learn about the basics of healthcare linen inventory management. New technology and service models make it so that you don’t need to worry about lost or stolen garments and linens—so what are you waiting for?

Inventory Management for Garments

“Scrubs growing legs” is a phrase heard in most medical facilities where scrubs seem to disappear or go missing. There are many reasons for this—some more innocent than others—like lack of monitoring or mistakenly throwing them away. Other reasons can include theft or abuse of scrubs (which means they were written on or used as a cleaning tool). For these reasons, companies that provide healthcare linen inventory management have created tools to eliminate these scenarios.

Intelligent barcode scanning via handheld PDA devices tracks every clean and soiled garment by size, wearer, and finishing method and bills the correct wearer for missing ones. Service specialists, like Nixon Medical’s Route Service Representatives, scan and track all the garments for you each time they visit your facility. This not only saves you money by passing scrub-loss costs onto the appropriate person but eliminates your need to manually count items—because let’s be honest, that’s the last thing you have time for! Beyond those benefits, this method teaches and enforces desired behaviors in your facility.

While barcode scanning is a highly effective and common approach to healthcare linen inventory management, scrub dispensing machines are increasing in popularity. These solutions feature authorized access controls, which means only personnel with the access code can obtain scrubs from them. Most dispensing machines also require the return of used scrubs to get clean ones. It helps keep scrubs centralized and available, which increases productivity, while also providing insight into when they were accessed, who they are with, and when they were returned.

Inventory Management For Linens

Similar to garment inventory tracking solutions, management systems and software exist for medical linens. Supplies like sheets, pillowcases, blankets, underpads, towels, and washcloths, are constantly being used, changed, cleaned, replaced—there are many touchpoints where an item can be thrown out or placed in the wrong hamper. Sophisticated tracking systems are available to ensure all your linens are accounted for every time they come into and go out of your outpatient facility. Having control over your healthcare linens results in greater quality of care and patient experience. In addition to savings from not having to replace linens, you’ll also benefit from improved patient satisfaction and reimbursement.

More Healthcare Linen Inventory Management Tips

Inventory management in outpatient facilities also encompasses laundry, delivery, and restocking. There are 7 distinct benefits of outsourcing medical linen laundry—but these benefits only come into focus if your laundry program is streamlined. Ask your existing or prospective healthcare laundry service provider these questions to ensure you’re getting the most out of your program.

  • What’s your cadence of pick-up and deliveries?
  • What if we have an unexpected inventory need?
  • Does your process meet OSHA and CDC standards?
  • How do you reduce the risk of cross-contamination?

You’ll also want to request the following documentation.

  • Exposure control plan
  • Bloodborne pathogens requirements
  • Facility cleaning policies and procedures
  • HLAC accreditation
  • Laundry facility statements

Is There Room for Improvement in Your Inventory Management Program?

If you’ve ever felt that there’s room for improvement by your current medical apparel and linen service provider, there probably is. Outpatient Surgery Magazine urges outpatient facilities to have suppliers compete for business, because in an outpatient facility, where patient volume is high and a practice manager’s job is always hectic, there’s no room for sub-par service.

If your healthcare linen inventory management program has room for improvement, contact us.



Written by Nixon Medical

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