The patient is the most important person in the healthcare environment, and successful hospitals and healthcare providers consistently look for ways to improve patient care. While medical supply storage may not intuitively seem like an important issue for patient care, the right storage solutions actually can improve the patient experience.
Consider four important ways that better storage solutions can help providers and clinicians deliver better patient care.
1 | Clinicians can easily access needed supplies
When supplies are organized well and stored in close proximity to where they will be used, clinicians can quickly and easily retrieve them when necessary. This can reduce wait times for patients and drive more immediate patient care.
For example, when all medical supplies are kept in a storage room or supply closet on the hospital floor, nurses and other clinicians must constantly spend time returning to the supply closet, locating the needed supplies, and transporting them to patient rooms. However, with a stocked and organized supply cart, nurses can bring needed supplies with them from room to room, providing care as needed with supplies on hand. As a result, nurses can provide care for more patients in less time, improving the patient experience.
2 | Sterile storage solutions protect patient safety
Healthcare-associated infections (HAI), infections that patients acquire in a hospital, are one of the greatest threats to patient safety. Every year, the U.S. healthcare system records more than 1 million HAIs, leading to tens of thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars in costs, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing medical supplies and equipment is important for preventing HAIs, it’s also important to store sterilized supplies and equipment in a way that keeps them clean and sterile. For example, the CDC recommends avoiding the storage of medical and surgical supplies under sinks or in other locations where they can become wet. Closed or covered cabinets are the best way to store sterilized materials, but open shelving can also be used, as long as sterile supplies are stored at least 8-10 inches from the floor, 5 inches from the ceiling, and at least 2 inches from outside walls to allow for air circulation and easier cleaning.
In fact, the way that sterile supplies are stored plays an outsized role in how long the items can be useful for patient care, according to the CDC.
3 | Proper storage reduces the potential for medical errors or mistakes
Unfortunately, medication errors are common in hospitals, and in the U.S., between 7,000 and 9,000 people die as the result of errors in dispensing medication each year, according to research. However, using storage solutions such as medication carts with efficiently organized supplies can help reduce the potential for medical errors or medication mistakes.
Traditionally, a hospital pharmacy might dispense all prescribed medications to one medication room. But that system comes with inherent risk that nurses and other providers may accidentally pick up the wrong medication or the wrong dosage for a particular patient.
Today, software-enabled medication carts make it possible to eliminate this issue. These carts contain storage drawers that are secured with digital locks, accessible only by authorized users. The correct, prescribed medicines for each patient can be dosed appropriately and securely loaded into the cart. With integrated software, the carts track who accesses each drawer, which medications are removed and for which patient. All this automated information helps hospitals track every pill, hold providers accountable and keep patients safer.
4 | Patient data remains secure
The business of healthcare demands attention to privacy and security for patient data, and the right storage solutions can help provide that. For example, modern bedside storage carts for medication and patient charts include security details, such as pushbutton, key or radio frequency identification (RFID) locks. Some bedside carts are equipped with multiple alarms, which can be transmitted as both audible alerts and email/text notifications.
While most medical records are digitized, hospitals still use physical documents that need to be stored in secure environments to protect the confidentiality of patient data. For these physical documents, secure storage with organized filing systems are necessary for clinicians to locate needed information.
Paying attention to proper storage can help hospitals and clinicians provide better patient care and improved patient experiences.