What’s inside:

A healthcare provider’s source of truth lies at the heart of its supply chain management and financial operations.

Ensuring the item master is up to the task of managing a huge and complex range of surgical inventory is a challenge for many healthcare providers.

This blog will look at:

Item Master maintenance is central to effective supply documentation in hospitals, let’s look into why this task is so crucial.

What is the role of the item master  list in hospital supply chain management?

An item master acts as a gatekeeper to the hospital EHR, only letting items in that have been validated.

In terms of perioperative supply documentation, the item master stores all the key information on stock items, and each product’s data is identified with a unique code, for example the catalog number.

The hospital supply item master is central to almost every business process, including purchasing and billing. The data stored in the system ensures that itemization during surgery results in smooth perioperative workflows. This means that when a product is consumed at the point of care and entered into the EHR, that item can be identified, validated, and then processed across multiple operational workflows via the hospital’s core systems.

What are the common hospital item catalog list challenges at the point of care?

The circulating nurse is required to document supplies and implants during surgery and is tasked with entering each product consumed into the EHR. This may be via a barcode scanner, manual data entry or another method.

There are several issues that complicate digital item identification and recording at the point of care.


Issue Barrier to item master accuracy
INVENTORY TYPES: A common issue is that a diverse range of items are used in surgeries and procedures. These may be items from stock, consignment inventory, or bill-only products, such as trunk stock.
ITEM MASTER STORAGE: Each type of inventory includes a huge volume of individual products, yet only a percentage of these will be listed in the hospital item master.
ITEM MASTER MANAGEMENT: Even when an item does list in the item catalog, there could still be problems, as a percentage of products in the hospital’s catalog list will have had data changes since the item was entered into the system, or last validated.
ACCURATE ITEM MASTER: The catalog database can be full of duplicate entries, inputting errors, inconsistent data formats, incomplete records, obsolete codes and more.


In short, item data management is required for the item master to work effectively, it needs to be continuously monitored and maintained.

An accurate item master that supports the smooth, routine, automated capture and documentation of surgical supply usage, without reverting to manual workarounds, is rare indeed.

When perioperative workflows stall due to master catalog list errors

If a hospital item master catalog is a regularly updated reference database of product information, then it will be able to facilitate the smooth documentation of clinical supply consumption. This task is critical for closing the healthcare supply chain loop – making the vital link between products and patients.

But all too often perioperative supply chain workflows that should be seamless and automated, grind to a halt due the lack of a match between the data entered into the system, and item master data.

When this happens, a system error is generated, and the perioperative nurse will have to manually enter the item as a ‘one-time supply’.

This is problematic for a few reasons:

  • ‘One-time entries’ – are supposed to be for single non-stock items that are not regularly used. This category is not designed for items that simply don’t appear in the item catalog and will be used on a regular basis.
  • When this option is used the item never actually makes it into the database as it’s been entered for single usage – so the root of the issue is never solved, and the problem perpetuates.
  • By relying on the ‘one-time’ workaround, providers are settling for a manual EHR data-entry task that lengthens the product data capture process.
  • Relying on keyed-in data, that is prone to errors or omissions, risks EHR data quality.


The joint issues of not having adequate storage capacity in the item master for all the regular stock items used, plus the challenge of maintaining the item master data that is stored in the system, result in the item master becoming a bottleneck that triggers elongated workarounds in the surgical supply data collection process.


This is a common issue for many hospitals, ambulatory care providers and other care facilities, and it’s not just a data collection issue, the impact is far wider than that.

The repercussions of item master limitations in hospitals

When recording product consumption at the point of care is neither quick nor easy, there is risk of it either being undertaken inaccurately, or not at all.

Perioperative nurses need to prioritize patients, not products, so longwinded workarounds can be difficult to complete during the surgery. Once surgical supply documentation becomes a post-procedure task for the circulating nurse, or another member of the team, then the risk of non-documentation rises.

The hospital item master is the central connection between the healthcare supply chain and the electronic health record (EHR), and all its associated applications.

Surgical supply consumption data is crucial for internal workflows, validated item data enables swift clinical documentation and smooth internal workflows including;

  • Inventory management – consumption data ensures demand-driven procurement that keeps costs in check
  • Patient safety – accurate records safeguard patients ensuring better clinical decisions, efficient product recalls, and patient outcomes.
  • Regulatory and audit compliance – digital documentation ensures full compliance and prevents ‘never events’ and litigation.
  • Medical billing – relies upon full, accurate and timely surgical charge capture.
  • Healthcare management – data-driven decision-making ensures smart healthcare management, based on precision business information and accurate forecasts.


If product utilization data in surgery is such a vital data-source for internal operations, what can be done to boost the reliability of the hospital item master so that surgical supply data capture can be more automated and efficient?

What is a virtual item master in healthcare?

Maintenance and management of the item master is a critical task for many healthcare providers.

Healthcare providers spend a fortune on internal and third-party item master maintenance. The issue is that the data starts to become outdated the day after the task is completed.

In addition, the issue of limited storage continues to be an issue.

For these reasons, many providers are choosing to enhance their local item master by tapping into a virtual item master.

We’ll take a look at one of these now and explain the benefit of such a system.


Snap&Go point of use surgical supply utilization using image recognition and AI technology.
Snap&Go point of use surgical supply utilization using image recognition and AI technology – and tapping into a globally populated virtual item master in the cloud.

Snap&Go computer vision POU documentation & virtual item master

Snap&Go is breakthrough technology that is changing the way that healthcare providers enhance their item master data management and achieve accurate item capture during surgery.

The system achieves point of use item tracking by using computer vision to take a digital image of product packaging. It then ‘reads’ the image using AI and machine learning, converting it into data.  This brand-new image-to-data technology is unique on the market.


This item data is then validated against a global SKU database that contains the pooled data of our worldwide customers. Every item that an individual provider enters into the system becomes available as a reference point for every other provider using the system.


This cloud-based clinical item master ensures quick item identification and documentation at the point of care – all items are recognized (either via the central SKU database, or by our back-office staff, who handle any exceptions). Any data that is entered into the system, but is not on the local item master system, is passed back to the provider so that they can maintain their own local item master.

A virtual item master enhances local product data, giving healthcare providers the most extensive database of healthcare products. When this is used as a reference, the circulating nurse can feel confident that every item entered into the system will find a match.

Full data integrity at the point of care supports vital downstream activity – with patient data feeding into operational workflows, without the need for workarounds and manual data entry.

When consumption data is efficiently collected, validated and documented, healthcare providers are able to more effectively manage their inventory, make costs savings and optimize revenue.

A healthcare provider’s source of truth is an enabler for efficient supply chain management.

Snap&Go point of use surgical supply utilization using image recognition and AI technology.
Snap&Go point of use surgical supply utilization using image recognition and AI technology.


As surgical inventory becomes ever more complex, many providers are looking for comprehensive inventory management systems that tap into virtual item master catalogs, that will guarantee the validation of every item entered into the system.

Virtual item master solutions are the future of efficient, lean medical inventory management, and profitable healthcare management.

If you are suffering from item master miseries and clogged up workflows, get in touch and let’s talk!

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About the author

Sharona is Marketing and Content Manager, charged with telling the world about IDENTI Medical, and its range of data sensing solutions. Sharona has worked in a range of industry settings, including healthcare organizations and SAAS companies. Sharona is also responsible for organizing network events across the US, creating opportunities for healthcare professionals to meet the team and see our products in action.
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