Medical Inventory Management Methodologies

Understanding Traditional Costing Methods

By David J. Piasecki, with
Hope Rachel Hetico; RN MHA, CMP™cmp-logo1

A good inventory management system offers opportunities for improved efficiency in any healthcare organization. The following traditional methods of inventory cost accounting and management are useful when one is calculating the cost of supplies (as opposed to medical items for resale and DME).

a. LIFO

The last-in first-out (LIFO) inventory costing method means the last items purchased are the first to be used (at least for cost calculations if the inventory consists of identical units). In times of rising prices, a lower total cost inventory is produced with a higher cost of goods sold. The last items purchased are most often the most expensive, and used first for the calculation. This happens because LIFO increases an expense (cost of goods sold) and decreases taxable income. Given the same revenue, higher expenses mean less profit. Deflation has the opposite effect.

b. FIFO

The first-in first-out (FIFO) inventory costing method means the first items purchased are the first to be used (at least for cost calculations if the inventory consists of identical units). In times of rising prices, a higher total cost inventory is produced with a lower cost of goods sold. This happens because FIFO decreases an expense (cost of goods sold) and increases taxable income. Deflation has the opposite effect.

Note: Any switch from FIFO to LIFO does not change reality, and although a decrease in reported incomes occurs, it does not increase cash outflows. However, for a taxable healthcare entity, after-tax net cash flow does increase.

c. Specific Identification

Specific identification is used for larger pieces of equipment, as it traces actual costs to an identifiable unit of product and is usually applied with an identification tag, serial plate, or radio frequency identification device (RFID) scanner. It does not involve flow-of-cost analysis. It does, however, permit the manipulation of income because healthcare entities state their cost of goods sold, and ending inventory, at the actual cost of specific units sold.

d. Average Cost

Average costing calculates ending inventory using a weighted average unit cost. When prices are rising, cost of good sold is less than under LIFO, but more than that under FIFO, and hence income manipulation is also possible.

e. Just-in-time Management

Although technically not a costing technique, JIT inventory management means that inventory supplies like DME are delivered as soon as needed by the healthcare organization, the prescribing doctor, or the patient. In JIT, inventory is “pulled” through the flow process. This is contrasted to the “push” approach used by conventional IM. In the push system, DME is already on-site, with little regard to when it is actually needed. In the JIT “pull” system, the overriding concern is to keep a minimum cost inventory, so that means having a system in which inventory is obtained on an as-needed basis.

The key elements of JIT consist of six parts:

1. a few dependable vendors or suppliers willing to ship with little advance notice;

2. total sharing of demand information throughout the supply chain;

3. more frequent orders;

4. smaller size of individual orders;

5. improved physical plant (hospital or clinic) layout to reduce travel flow distance; and

6. use of a total quality control system to reduce flawed medical products.

Using the JIT method, inventory is delivered when needed, rather than in advance, saving handling and storage costs. The healthcare entity never needs to stockpile inventory, and cash flow is enhanced. JIT is further characterized as follows:

  • little or no work orders;
  • little or no tracing of materials;
  • fewer inventory accounts or accounts payables;
  • reduction or elimination of work-in-progress or handling activities; and
  • no tracing of overhead and direct labor costs

JIT requires a dependable working relationship with suppliers and the precise calculation of inventory needs, especially for the following:

  • sterile surgical packs;
  • gastro-intestinal and gastro-urinary instrumentation;
  • orthopedic and OB-GYN inventory;
  • invasive heart and lung equipment;
  • radio isotopes and trace radiographic materials; and
  • equipment for almost all pre-schedule medical interventions and procedures.

Assessment

This means that, when JIT inventory monitoring is used, healthcare managers are better prepared with the proper inputs to control and reduce inventory, including when dramatic bursts or declines occur. This means a more rapid and higher cash flow balance, rather than inventory balance. Each of these traditional methods of inventory cost accounting is adequate for most healthcare facilities, but as inventory orders and costs continue to increase, economic order quantity [EOQ] costing may be the most effective means of accounting for inventory in DME-intensive organizations.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Can you think of any other inventory management technologies?  Tell us what you think. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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By Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™hetico1

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Understanding Medical Inventory Cost Accounting

[By DavidJ. Piasecki; CPIM]

[By Hope Hetico; RN, MHA]

Prof. Hetico

Inventory cost accounting methods are seldom used by medical practitioners. After all, doctors and healthcare organizations provide a service, and generally do not sell things. However, inventory is playing an increasingly important role in the financial viability of procedurally based medical practitioners, clinics, and hospitals.

Durable Medical Equipment

This occurs because hospitals and these healthcare entities maintain, dispense, and use durable medical equipment (DME) more abundantly than ever before. Voice systems, RFID, OCR, pick-to-light and laser scanners, CCD scanners, hand-held batch and RF terminals, vehicle-mounted computers, and wearable computers are now all part of the modern healthcare system inventory data-collection and management picture.

A Decade Old Challenge

Ironically, the financial challenge of hospital inventory management was first articulated in the Efficient Healthcare Consumer Response Report (EHCR) in 1996. The report identified $11.6 billion of cost saving opportunities in the American healthcare system directly due to inefficient product movement and ineffective inventory control and materials management. Now, more than ten years later, this situation has only grown worse. As material costs have increased, our overburdened health system cannot afford such inefficiency.

For example, DME stock-out emergencies are real and costly. And, inventory models such as economic order quantity (EOQ) costing have been in existence long before modern data capture inventory costing methods, just-in-time (JIT) inventory controls, total quality management protocols, and the other supply chain inventory management (SCIM) initiatives often used to prevent them.

Medical Supply Chain Inventory Management

Medical SCIM is a method of accounting that takes into consideration raw materials, the construction of useful products, and the distribution of those products. Physician proceduralists, medical dispensers, and hospitals must understand SCIM, because a healthcare entity’s profitability will suffer if it has too much, or too little DME inventory on hand. DME can be both a cost center or revenue driver, depending on its management.

Perpetual Inventory Management

A perpetual [periodic inventory] costing method is the traditional way to account for DME usage. With periodic costing, the cost of inventory is determined once, at the end of the period. With a perpetual costing inventory, a new unit price is recalculated with each order.

EOQ Methods

How can the healthcare entity determine the proper DME inventory level? One uncommonly used, but increasingly important, approach is the EOQ method. Some astute clinic and hospital administrators are just now using EOQ to manage their DME inventory. They are increasing their financial benefits by determining the most cost effective answers to the questions: 

· How much inventory should I order?

· When should I order the inventory?

· How can I increase efficiency and reduce channel costs?  

Assessment

In other words, how can a hospital or healthcare organization optimize inventory levels, reduce expenses, and still improve patient care and safety?

Conclusion

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