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How to Improve EMS Inventory Management

ESO Staff

For EMS agencies, managing assets can not only improve operational efficiencies and budget use, but can also improve mission readiness and outcomes during incidents. Maintaining a more accurate understanding of your inventory levels can also aid in compliance and help simplify reimbursements.

6 Ways to Improve Inventory Management

The inventory management process can be difficult to get a grip on, and it takes some trial and error. Whether you are managing one ambulance or dozens, there are steps you can take to make the process as easy, efficient, and accurate as possible.

The top ways to improve your inventory management system include:

  • Establishing an inventory control system
  • Finding an appropriate level of safety stock
  • Be aware of your lead times
  • Understand the supply chain
  • Improve your forecasting
  • Upgrade your inventory management software

1. Establish an Inventory Control System

​The first step to proper inventory management is to find an inventory control system that works for your team. Regularly tracking your stock levels can give you real-time insights as to which products are being most used and which are not, making a more effective ordering and restock process. This is especially important in dealing with medications, which must be used before expiring.

An inventory control system can also help ensure your team is already mission ready, and that each ambulance has the items it needs to best serve the community. If you have a larger fleet, usage data can be helpful in allocating supplies based on the most common calls of a specific area, based on incident types and historic usage data for that area.

2. Maintain an Appropriate Level of Safety Stock

While usage data and regular supply level checks can be helpful to ensure your agency is operating as efficiently as possible, it’s also important to maintain an appropriate safety stock to avoid shortages.

Keeping expiration dates in mind, agencies should be sure to keep a sufficient backup supply to ensure you can address any large-scale emergencies or unforeseen spikes in usage. A backup supply can also safeguard you and your community from shortages in production, or longer deliver times.

3. Be Aware of Lead Times

Being aware of your lead time is important when it comes to effective inventory management. Lead time is the amount of time it takes for your supplier to deliver your product after you make a purchase order. Many things may affect a product’s lead time, including demand and the company’s sourcing of raw materials.

Having an understanding of various products’ lead times can help with inventory turnover and allow you to have a better idea of your restock dates. Additionally, keeping an eye on industry developments can help you stay ahead of the curve with new products or lead time on existing products.

4. Understand the Supply Chain

Unfortunately, many EMS supplies needed to deliver quality prehospital care have been in short supply in recent months and years. Global demand for PPE items like gloves, N95 masks, and ventilators are still recovering from 2020. Additionally, because globalization is a very real element of manufacturing, the availability of raw goods in foreign countries has a direct impact on availability and price in the U.S.

Shortages can impact not only medication and equipment, but ambulances and related parts as well.  Many suppliers and distributors are working with legislators to try to address these issues, but the supply problems are often unpredictable. EMS agencies must do their best to work within their budgets while still buffering in enough padding in case delivery times are exceptionally long, or backorder notifications arise.

5. Improve Your Forecasting

One of an EMS agency’s best tools for managing inventory is real-world usage data from their operations. These metrics can help you see historic trends, busy times, most common types of calls, and which products are in highest demand. Your usage data can help you better estimate what products you’re most likely to need and when, working within your budget cycles and with an understanding of lead times.

6. Upgrade Your Inventory Management Tools

EMS agencies utilize various tools for inventory management, including spreadsheets and even paper checklists. However, more and more agencies are today seeing the value of Inventory Management Software. Today’s top tools make it more efficient for tracking inventory, recording levels, incorporating usage data, outputting reports and metrics, and staying in compliance.

Having real-time insights at your fingertips into inventory levels at all locations, restocking requirements, and reorder status takes the guesswork out of deciding from where to transfer needed supplies or, alternatively, when to place orders and in what quantities.

Benefits of Using Inventory Management Software

Inventory management software delivers a long list of benefits to EMS agencies, including:

  • More Accurate Data: An inventory management system will help you keep better track of medications, supplies, and expiration dates. It also helps you gain better insight into your inventory levels to create a proper level of safety stock.
  • Reduced Cost and Increased Productivity: Managing inventory can take a lot of manpower, and it often falls on the shoulders of crew members that have other jobs they have to be completing. Easy to use software and automated reporting features reduce the personhours needed in tracking inventory and make everyone’s jobs more efficient.
  • Better Organization: No more chasing around missing hard copies or wrangling spreadsheets. An inventory management software can help you stay organized by holding all of the data in one place. Integration with ePCR software can make it simpler to integrate usage data based on patient reports.

Efficiently Managing Your Inventory Systems with ESO

ESO Inventory is an intuitive inventory management software interface that works throughout the EMS processes for both improved visibility and streamlined workflows. ESO Inventory helps you balance cost control with medication availability, while minimizing waste by providing real-world and current data on your inventory levels.

You’ll be able to spend less on supplies by moving expiring medications to busier locations, as well as keeping supply counts at par to avoid overstocking shelves. Integration with ePCR tools, action lists, and reorder point monitoring make inventory management more efficient at all points.

ESO recently partnered with EMS1 to create an eBook covering strategies to create high-quality operations, while minimizing resource use by leveraging technology. Topics include how lean conceptualizing can revamp medication, standard medical consumables and serialized inventory tracking through asset verification, ePCR recording, and fleet management.

Download the inventory management eBook now to learn more about how your agency can improve asset management.

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