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Archive September 2019 XX, No. 9

Business Advisor: Make Your Preference Cards a Current Affair

10 tips to keep your pick lists accurate and up to date.

Janet Lawrence

Janet Lawrence


TAMING THE BEAST The idea of preference cards is to have the right resources in the right place at the right time for the right patient.

If your surgeons have too few or too many of the instruments and supplies they need for a case, your preference cards are inaccurate and outdated. It's too few if your nurses and techs frequently make mad dashes from the OR to the supply room to retrieve missing items. It's too many if your surgeons don't use half the supplies you open. Either way, you're not alone if your pick lists need to be picked over to add what's missing or remove what's not needed. Here are some steps you can take to stack the deck in your favor.

1 Audit your preference cards. Verify with your staff and surgeons that your cards are up to date and accurate. Ask things like, "This $1,500 item you used last time, is that something we need to order every time?" In some cases, staff might have added a rarely used device to the preference card. And then, lo and behold, you're ordering — maybe even overnighting — these items and then shipping them right back, incurring restocking and shipping fees, because you didn't need it after all. Have these conversations and make the necessary changes. You'll want to audit on a regular basis — say, once a year.

2 Oversight. Who's in charge of updating and managing your preference cards? If you can dedicate one person to this task — someone to whom everyone consults on changes and provides updated information for revising cards — you'll operate much more smoothly. Beware the nurses and scrub techs who like to have things on hand that aren't usually necessary, but would make them "the hero" if the surgeon actually needs them. Or they order them just in case, so they don't need to leave the OR and chase them down.

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