Title: Inventory Practices and Solutions for Healthcare Facilities in the Resource-Limited Settings
Inventory systems are crucial for the proper functioning of any hospital facility, but they are often overlooked when considering the vital hallmarks of good healthcare. Inventories ensure no patient is unable to receive the care they need, whether it be through medical equipment, disposables, or drugs. They are a central record and form of documentation, and provide vital data that can be analyzed and used to make the facility more efficient. However, for hospitals in resource-limited settings, inventories are often disregarded or unused. These hospitals lack the infrastructure and personnel to maintain a functional inventory, but perhaps most importantly they lack proper inventory-taking methods and usage practices. The goal of this paper is to explore diverse potential solutions for this dilemma in a world that is becoming increasingly connected through technology. Different infrastructures will be analyzed and their feasibility will be assessed for various settings in the developing world. The primary criteria for differentiating settings will be hospital size, as this factor significantly impacts both the usage model and the infrastructure type. Larger hospitals, for example, will be unfit for centralized inventory systems that exist on paper or one computer in the entire hospital—accessing it would be too much of a hassle. However, such a system may work for smaller, more rural hospitals and clinics.
Another factor that will be used to differentiate settings types will be connectivity, which here will encompass accessibility to mobile devices and web-access. In many countries, the adaptation of smart phones and internet towers have seen tremendous growth, outpacing many more rudimentary forms of infrastructure. This change has transformed some societies and economies very drastically, and there is promise that new mobile technologies and connectivity will be even more influential in the years to come. For hospital inventory systems, mobile platforms are one viable solution that may alter the idea that inventories are a luxury that can only be afforded by well-funded hospitals in the western world.