Packaging's impact on purchase decisions

RN Karen Kiefer discussed the impact packaging has on purchasing decisions at Texas Health Resources (THR) during HealthPack 2006. Healthcare continues to change dramatically for professionals at THR, a faith-based, nonprofit U.S. healthcare system that includes 13 hospitals and more than 2,400 licensed beds and serves patients in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. As director, operating room supply chain management, Kiefer explained some of the key packaging challenges THR faces in her presentation, "The Impact of Packaging on Purchase Decisions." They include the following:

• We must minimize inventory to avoid carrying obsolete products, so printing the number of units is important, be it per each item, per box, or per case. The easier the packs and total items are to count, the better.

• Labeling. The package needs a catalog number, reorder number, product description, size, expiration, latex-free symbol, printing that tells if it's sterile or not, and the lot number.

• Package resemblance is a huge issue and can lead to errors if the package for one product looks like the package for another.

• Product waste. We need less waste materials, because the cost of disposal is a key. Reusable containers are good, and hospitals are trying to become environmental stewards.

• It's a lot easier for us to maintain information on CDs, rather than thick catalogs. We're also using the Internet much more frequently to look up product details, get information, and to order product.

Under the heading "Future Trends," Kiefer said "Materials directors seem to be excited about universal bar codes with handheld scanners to receive and dispense products to departments, and for department personnel to then use that to charge patients." [HCP]

By Jim Butschli, Editor