Medical Inventory Management

Managing Medical Inventory Compliance

March 7, 2024 • 7 min read

For healthcare stakeholders, inventory compliance is a key element of ethical, financial, and regulatory responsibility. Whether you work in a hospital, for a large medical practice, or even a small outpatient clinic, there are specific rules and regulations that apply to your unique operation. And, almost certainly, some of these standards will require your organization to maintain airtight inventory records.

In this article, we will zero in on how to ensure your organization remains compliant with whatever regulations you and your facility are subject to. Of course, regulatory compliance in healthcare differs depending on where your organization is located, the type of healthcare it provides, and what kinds of supplies, materials, equipment, and medication it transports, receives, uses, or sells. Still, there are several broad-stroke best practices that can be implemented to improve medical inventory compliance across the board. 

Importance of regulatory compliance in the healthcare industry

There are a variety of reasons why compliance is so essential in the healthcare industry. First and foremost, regulatory compliance is necessary to maintain accreditation. And just as notably, your organization’s ability to maintain an efficient supply chain network, keep track of all medications and equipment, and have the appropriate supplies on hand directly affect your operation’s ability to offer swift, high-quality patient care. 

While regulatory compliance standards differ between sub-industries, the term generally refers to the documented process of maintaining all standards necessary to operate within the healthcare industry as determined by a regulatory body. \

In the healthcare industry, for example, many hospitals and clinics are subject to oversight by the Joint Commission, which determines whether an organization’s processes uphold set standards of patient care. Another aspect of the accreditation process is providing airtight inventory records that detail equipment use, maintenance, and usage.

How to practice regulatory compliance in healthcare

When looking to shore up regulatory compliance in the healthcare industry, the first order of business is to review all standards set by whatever accreditation committee your organization responds to. These standards should be documented within your organization’s standard operating procedure and built into its key performance indicators. Once you’ve articulated precisely what you need to do to remain compliant, the following five best practices can help you implement an even more robust regulatory compliance strategy for your healthcare operation:

1. Strengthen your supply chain transparency

Supply chain traceability offers visibility into how an organization’s inventory moves through its supply chain network. The better your organization’s understanding of how its supply chain works—from pharmaceutical manufacturers to the transportation and logistics partners that help bring these medications to your door—the more likely it is that you will identify vulnerabilities in the network that could cause your organization to fall into noncompliance and be unable to meet the demands of your patients and customers.

One of the most effective ways to improve supply chain transparency is to audit all vendors and suppliers your organization is contracted with. Identify which partners are underperforming and seek to remedy these issues. If the problems cannot be solved, consider replacing these partners with new suppliers you trust.

2. Prepare for the unexpected

Another reason to improve supply chain traceability and strengthen your relationship with partners and suppliers is that these steps help prepare your organization for the unexpected. From pandemics to natural disasters, no industry understands the importance of disaster planning more than healthcare. That being said, the more communicative you are with your partners and the more confident you are in your supply chain, the easier it is for your organization to prepare for the unexpected and get the information (and the inventory) you need during times of high stress and demand.

Moreover, an airtight supply chain is also essential if and when regulatory boards update their standards for compliance. You’ll want to be in a position where you can immediately make such changes and, just as importantly, look back in time at your inventory records to prepare for the future or offer documentation of past equipment and inventory usage.

3. Track equipment maintenance

Next, keeping track of all maintenance performed on medical equipment is an essential part of healthcare compliance. While your organization certainly already does this, the record-keeping process can be streamlined and digitized with the help of the right healthcare inventory management software

Unlike storing key information on paper or a spreadsheet, inventory management software allows all stakeholders everywhere to collaborate and instantly access information about an asset’s past history. This includes warranties, manuals, and all recorded information about past maintenance. If linked to the inventory system via a barcode or QR code, it takes only a second for your employees to access critical details about an item and its history. This can help technicians do better work and simplify your regulatory reporting process. 

It’s also easy to generate, export, and share customized reports that detail given items’ maintenance histories.

Tracking medical equipment for medical inventory compliance

4. Track critical inventory

While your healthcare organization likely already uses an inventory management strategy to keep track of all items, certain items in your inventory are of utmost importance to regulators. While your operation may track things like printer ink and cotton swabs, regulatory boards will be concerned with medications, vaccines, and other critical medical supplies and equipment.

To remain compliant, many healthcare organizations implement what’s known as a perpetual inventory system: an inventory strategy in which all items’ inventory levels and whereabouts are tracked in real time, usually with the help of barcodes and QR codes. Typically, inventory software connects barcodes and QR codes to key item details so that healthcare employees can check items in and out as they are used, received, or relocated.

The right inventory management software will also allow healthcare stakeholders to set minimum inventory levels for key supplies and materials. Users can opt to receive notifications when inventory is beginning to run low. Customizations can also be set for expiration dates, maintenance dates, and warranty ends. These automated features can save your organization’s time, stress, and money and help you remain compliant, all while mitigating risk for patients and your organization.

5. Perform inventory audits

Regardless of how frequently a regulatory committee determines inventory and equipment audits should be performed, many healthcare organizations choose to physically account for supplies and equipment at least once a year. 

This auditing process can be streamlined with the help of the same perpetual inventory management system, particularly if all supplies, materials, and end equipment have been affixed with a barcode or QR code. 

During these audits, the focus should be not only on ensuring all inventory is in good shape and accounted for but also on identifying weak spots in your standard operating procedure. Whether you are noticing inventory in poor condition that’s coming from one particular vendor or that too many items are set to expire far too soon, an inventory audit is the perfect opportunity to create an even more robust inventory management strategy that not only makes compliance easier but ensures your healthcare operation remains profitable and productive, too.

About Sortly

Tracking inventory accurately is a key piece of practicing medical compliance. Sortly is an inventory management solution that helps you track, manage, and organize your medical inventory—from any device, in any location. We’re an easy-to-use inventory software that’s perfect for medical clinics, hospitals, and labs. Sortly builds inventory tracking seamlessly into your workday so you can save time and money, satisfy your patients, and help your business succeed.

With Sortly, you can track medcal inventory, supplies, parts, tools, assets like equipment and machinery, and anything else that matters to your clinic. It comes equipped with smart features like barcoding & QR coding, low stock alerts, customizable folders, data-rich reporting, and much more. Best of all, you can update inventory right from your smartphone, whether you’re on the job, in the stockroom, or on the go.

Whether you’re just getting started with inventory management or you’re an expert looking for a more efficient solution, we can transform how your company manages inventory—so you can focus on building your business. That’s why over 10,000 businesses globally trust us as their inventory management solution.

Start your two-week free trial of Sortly today.