“Loaner” trays (surgical trays that are held temporarily for a given case and then returned to the manufacturer) provide a number of important benefits for the supply chain including reducing the amount of inventory sitting in the field and the related cost associated with those trays. Loaner trays also provide a mechanism for making these medical devices available to providers who may not have the available budget to purchase them outright. However, loaner trays present significant challenges to the value chain that need to be addressed:

Timing

Loaner trays usually are being shipped directly to a rep or provider, making them especially susceptible to service interruptions from the shipping carrier. Additionally, their arrival can over-encumber sterile processing departments creating backlogs and straining available resources. These timing challenges are all risks to the case happening on-time as-planned.

Managing the data

The healthcare value chain is currently made up of myriad disparate, disconnected systems making it difficult to track inventory all the way through the value chain. Because these trays are provided ad-hoc and not always directly into a distributor or reps possession, it can be difficult to ensure that all of the necessary information is provided and is traceable (lot number, UDI, etc.). It’s critical to manage this inventory and its related data just as carefully as regularly consigned inventory. If this data is not making its way through the value chain to the point of use, it can have an impact on patient outcomes in the event of a recall, for instance.  

Complexity in Processing

As mentioned above, SPD may not know which trays are arriving, how many devices are coming, the methods required by the manufacturer for processing, or the time required to process them. What if a SPD knew beforehand what was arriving and when, AND had the instructions for use readily available to complete sterile processing?

The practice of using loaner trays in the medical device value chain is not likely to stop any time soon, but there are significant opportunities to improve the efficiency and safety of this process. Due to the need for complete visibility to the value chain and seamless communication, Inventory tracking and case management systems, like ConnectSx, are going to be central to resolving these problems in the loaner workflow.