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The U.S. Army hospital in Heidelberg expects to save some $250,000 over the next two years simply by asking its employees to talk to one another.The decision to inject conversation into a relatively mundane supply procedure is being touted as a simple solution to a problem caused, at least in part, by relying on technology.For years the hospital’s surgical staff has used a computer system to order supplies. Someone would put an order in through the computer and sooner or later they’d get their goods.The problem was that different people in the section didn’t always know when something was on its way, and frequently ordered another batch of the same thing. When double or triple orders came in, excess supplies sat around, went bad and had to be thrown out.The problem persisted even though the supply office that processed the surgery section’s orders was in the same building a couple floors down. “The supply people would assume that you knew what you were doing,” said Phil Tegtmeier, a spokesman for the European Regional Medical Command, which oversees the hospital.Lt. Col. Andrea Lester, an Army supply officer, took on the excess supply problem as part of her certification for an Army program aimed at streamlining business operations.Three problems were identified, all of which stemmed from a lack of communication between the surgical staff and the supply section.“They put a person back in the equation,” Tegtmeier said, and realized, “Oh, we weren’t talking to each other.”By talking and getting together monthly to reconcile supply orders, the hospital is projected to save roughly $250,000 in fiscal 2008 and 2009 from supply savings and by cutting administrative expenses related to the ordering process.“We’ll save money, for sure, but we know each other better now, and I think there are lessons learned here that we can apply in other areas,” Lt. Col. Jose V. Alicea, chief of logistics at the hospital, said in a news release.

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