As funding becomes stretched and patient numbers rise, hospitals come under pressure to reduce costs and improve efficiency – but this is not always an easy task, and the provision of instruments for surgery is no exception. Inventory management is complex and takes time, while the need to have the right equipment on hand results in overstocking. The selection and assembly of individual items are time-consuming, slow up surgeries and are an area open to possible errors.

Improved operational efficiency

Tailored procedure boxes by the healthcare solutions company Medtronic provide answers to these issues. Each box contains all the instruments required for specific surgical procedures, streamlining the process of ordering stock and managing invoices. This is supported by a survey conducted by Medtronic on the use of procedure boxes at a number of European hospitals: Great Western Hospital in Swindon, UK, found the time spent investigating invoices reduced by 91% when ordering boxes.

An easy ordering process also helps hospitals with financial efficiency. Each procedure box – and therefore each surgery – has one unique code for reorder. "Hospitals have to manage budgets, and kits are the perfect tools to control the specific expenditure per procedure," says Laura Marquez, procedural solutions manager at Medtronic. The use of procedure boxes allowed University Hospital Limerick, Clinical Institute Beato Matteo in Vigevano, Italy, and Great Western Hospital to reduce inventory volume by 30% and inventory value by 50%.

Tailored boxes mean inventory management is simplified and storage optimised. "You know exactly which products to use for every surgery, so you get rid of all the extra stock that may not be needed," Marquez explains. Improved efficiency in this area frees up space; furthermore, Medtronic reports that waste can be reduced by up to 50%, as extensive packaging for individual items is eliminated.

Enhanced surgical experience

The benefits of using procedure boxes extend into the operating room itself. Having all the required instruments together in one box cuts the time it takes to prepare for surgery, as nurses do not have to select instruments from a variety of locations. This is borne out in Medtronic’s survey results: University Hospital Limerick reduced its set-up time by 63%.

This has knock-on effects on the overall efficiency of the hospital. "Because there’s a reduction of time in several processes in the operating room, there is more time to treat more patients," Marquez says.

Having all instruments packaged together in a kit removes the chance of mistakes when picking products for theatre. Medtronic’s survey found that error rates in this area were lowered by 16-20%, reducing the likelihood that nurses would have to leave the theatre to retrieve missing items and allowing a smoother surgical experience. Furthermore, the use of prepared kits is a significant step towards the goal of standardisation in surgery, with identical items used in each specific procedure. Standardisation reduces clinical variants, which is then associated with better clinical outcomes.

Medtronic’s procedure boxes are customisable, allowing surgeons to specify the equipment they require for procedures. "They can choose whatever product they want to be included in this box, and so it’s tailored to the customer’s needs," Marquez says. The inherent efficiency of procedure boxes offers hospitals a tool to improve in numerous spheres at once: budget and inventory, waste reduction, procedure times and standardisation in surgery.