With austerity measures ongoing as reimbursement models evolve, hospitals are looking to create efficiencies throughout the healthcare continuum. But one opportunity they may not be thinking about is shipping and receiving, which largely lacks overarching strategy across many health systems.
In fact, just 1 in 3 healthcare executives said that shipping decisions were operationalized at the enterprise level, according to a recent Pitney Bowes survey. Most decisions, respondents said, occur at the departmental level. But in an era of health systems’ increased attention around standardization and centralization, are these siloed shipping models creating financial waste?
Perhaps so. While shipping may not be top of mind for healthcare executives, it can sure take a bite out of an organization’s bottom line — especially considering that 53% of survey respondents said they expected shipping volumes to increase over the next few years. Deliveries of remote-monitoring devices, medications and other digital health offerings may drive those trends, respondents reported.
So where are the opportunities to root out financial waste ahead of this predicted influx of hospital-to-home shipments? Here’s what one Pitney Bowes expert suggests health systems watch out for when optimizing their shipping strategy:
1. Missing out on carrier discounts
Significant discounts can be had when consolidating carrier contracts systemwide, said Tom Hazel, vice president of carrier solutions, North America at Pitney Bowes. It’s a simple equation: More business, more negotiation power.
“This comes down to sheer volume when healthcare organizations can combine their shipping activities,” Hazel said. “You can negotiate for the best rates and terms while minimizing administrative redundancies like invoice reviews and vendor processing.”
2. Inefficient packing habits
Inefficient packing can be an insidious driver of wasted costs because of a relatively recent and lesser known process called dimensional rating. This occurs when someone uses their own box instead of the carrier’s standard packaging, Hazel said.
“The pricing is adjusted based on what is greater in weight, the box dimensions or the weight,” he said. “In effect, you might have a package you think is going out for a one-pound rate but will actually cost the eight-pound rate simply based on package size and the extra room it takes up in transporting.”
To avoid this, Hazel said to minimize dead space when packing boxes — and also training staff so they understand the implications of packaging, carrier and delivery-speed choices. Carrier and shipping partner webinars, e-books and other resources are a good starting point to build internal education programs, he added.
3. Insufficient tracking of inbound shipments
Every day, critical and lifesaving equipment and supplies arrive at healthcare facilities. But if there’s no way to track those materials, it can disrupt clinical workflows, frustrate patients and yes, waste costs. Instead, consider the operational, data-driven approach.
“You can systemically track shipments by purchase order, which enables teams to reconcile packages and ensure they were received,” Hazel said. “With more data, you can understand what’s coming in the door, when it’s coming and where it is in the chain of custody. You can then establish alerts to notify teams where materials should go as soon as they’re received.”
4. Unsupported remote teams
As some healthcare workflows become remote-capable, staff are coming into physical workspaces less often. While that creates efficiencies in overhead, it can also inflate costs if teams aren’t supported accordingly.
Say, for example, a billing manager needs to send a simple correspondence. If they were at the office, where mailing machines are likely available, they might make the cost-effective choice of USPS. But without those tools, it’s easier to print a more expensive UPS label and move on.
“You have to think about providing tools for your agile workforce, whether they’re continuously agile or partially agile,” he said. “There are many options to do that across desktop, all-in-one devices that print labels and stamps and weigh materials.”
5. Underuse of shipping and receiving services
Even after recapturing wasted costs, organizations can still miss out on cost-cutting opportunities if they underuse shipping and receiving solutions such as Pitney Bowes’. Not only do vendors have experience working with carriers — and potentially more insights into rates — but they can also provide technology that empowers staff and supports decisions.
“We can, at no cost, look at an organization’s spend and see if there are opportunities to be more efficient, such as taking advantage of delivery date alternatives or same-day delivery but at a later time,” Hazel said. “That’s not something carrier-provided software can do.”
Save costs with a robust shipping strategy
Shipping and receiving may not get much attention in busy healthcare environments, but there are untapped efficiencies that can come from a more robust and centralized strategy. From building more negotiation power to making inbound and outbound shipments more predictable, correcting common oversights can have more impact than you might think.
Helping you achieve that impact is Pitney Bowes. Learn more about operationalizing your hospital’s shipping and receiving workflows.