Hospitals are facing a challenging time. Health services in many countries are under increasing pressure, with funding slowing and patient numbers growing. All aspects of healthcare need to be as economical as possible.

This isn’t easy: decisions on procurement are often made by individuals or individual trusts. This leads to varying costs across countries, with the cost of stock in the UK differing by an average of 10%. Of course, cost is not just about price – healthcare professionals need the right product for the job; if the correct equipment is unavailable, operations may be cancelled.

Inventory management can be time-consuming and costly; overstocking increases waste, plus administration and surgery set-up times. Rationalising and standardising product choices could save hospitals money, and many are turning to standardised surgery procedure boxes to help them improve efficiency. But how much of a difference do they make?

Global healthcare solutions company Medtronic compared the use of its procedure boxes with individual stock items at University Hospital Limerick, Republic of Ireland; Great Western Hospital, England; Aker University Hospital, Norway; and Clinical Institute Beato Matteo, Italy. Medtronic studied inventory levels, order management, inventory replenishment and surgery set-up times.

They deliver a smoother theatre set-up, helping us achieve our start-up and end times.

Improved operational efficiency

Procedure boxes simplified the ordering and invoicing process considerably. Great Western Hospital reported a 91% reduction in administration time for invoices that required investigation. In all the hospitals, procedure boxes reduced order time by up to six hours a year.

"With kits, I save 30 minutes a month on order management – it is significant," comments Davide Magistroni, head of purchasing at Clinical Institute Beato Matteo.

Procedure boxes also improved stock management in theatres, saving around five minutes a day at University Hospital Limerick. "Kits stack easily," says Monica O’Brien, theatre attendant at University Hospital Limerick. "I have spare room on the trolley to carry all the products to the ward without anything falling."

Clinical Institute Beato Matteo, Great Western Hospital and University Hospital Limerick also reduced their inventory volumes by 30% and inventory values by 50% thanks to procedure boxes. As well as freeing up storage space and capital, this reduced waste. Great Western Hospital identified that it could have saved £5,000 in out-of-date products in one year by using procedure boxes.

Enhanced surgery experience

Procedure boxes guarantee the right products for the right surgery at the right time.

"The new procedure box for my laparoscopic lists is delivering the solution I was looking for," says Eoghan Condon, consultant at University Hospital Limerick. "They deliver a smoother theatre set-up, helping us achieve our start-up and end times."

University Hospital Limerick reduced surgery set-up time by 63% and product-selection error rate by 16%. This is likely to have a knock-on benefit for infection control, as staff did not have to leave the operating room to collect missing items. Procedure boxes help hospitals reduce inventory and improve efficiency, enabling staff to spend more time caring for patients.

"Kits support our efforts towards surgery standardisation, which is key to running an efficient and patient-centred service," concludes Dr Roberto Tacchino, head of the bariatric department at Clinical Institute Beato Matteo.