Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Going Solo?: Manage your supplies!

You will find that the busier you get, the more difficult it will become to maintain control over the nuts and bolts of your practice, like lab result management, bill paying, call backs, and inventory control. This is a good thing, since it means that you have a growing and thriving practice. But you will need to stay on of top things, and one very important such thing is of your ever changing number of inventory/supplies. Nothing is worse than running out of sutures during a vasectomy or irrigation fluid during a cystoscopy. It’s bad form. On a less drastic scale, it cost more money to have that needed supply overnight mailed to you rather than by standard delivery.

Inventory control—actually in our case supply control—is a process that takes time to learn and develop. It is important to develop a system early on in the game, perhaps as you write your operational manual. You can always alter it and improve upon it later, but you should have one from the outset. Here is mine.

Once per week I walk around the office with Staci, my receptionist/data entry person/scheduler, and a pen and paper. Then we look through the drawers, cabinets, and closets in the exam rooms and laboratory and note what supplies are dwindling or dwindled.
I use a “2 X” rule. By this I mean, I keep double supplies, and when I deplete one, I re-order another. For example, I stock 2 boxes of chromic sutures and when one is used up, I purchase another. I stock 6 boxes of exam gloves—2 per room—and when I deplete one per room, I re-order. This is not how DELL COMPUTERS does things, but I’m not DELL, and they don’t do vasectomies.

For larger items where storage becomes an issue, I use the 0.5 X rule. When I deplete half of the supplies, I re-order.

I re-order with item numbers and descriptions, not one or the other. This way I always get the correct item. For example, Braun and Baxter both make irrigation tubing. I can only use Baxter’s. When I made a recent order, I asked my PSS rep to get me cysto irrigation tubing, “you know, the same type I always order.” And Braun’s came. Now I fax the orders as following. Baxter 80cm irrigation tubing #BC04050, quant 5.

My staff understands that I actually means them. When I say I need to re-order more micro-Cell counting chambers, I actually mean that THEY need to re-order the micro-Cell counting chambers. That’s a man thing, what with the poor communication skills and all. But, whatever.

There it is. Easy. Simple. Non-sophisticated. Just like me.

I'll take any suggestions from the blogosphere.