I frequently hear from distributors and manufacturers that one way providers can get more value from their supplier relationships is to align product decisions to quality and outcomes metrics. That sounds like a smart idea in theory, especially given the current reimbursement climate. But what does that actually look like in practice?
If you ask 50 supply chain executives, you might get 50 different answers. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to hear three such experts share their product opinions at HIDA’s Streamlining Healthcare Expo & Business Exchange. During a “Making the Case for Quality Products” panel, Eric Tritch, UChicago Medicine Vice President of Supply Chain, Tom Lubotsky, former Advocate Health Care Chief Supply Chain Officer, and Michael Prokopis, Steward Health Care Vice President of Supply Chain, provided several unique insights on the topic.
Cost is king
Despite a growing emphasis on outcomes, supply chain leaders still focus primarily on cost and the measures that contribute to costs. “Besides price, total cost of ownership is crucial when evaluating products,” Tom Lubotsky explained. “Recalls, backorders, and the reliability of having available product on hand can significantly affect costs.”
Clinical outcomes studies are helpful when making product decisions, especially if a potential switch carries more upfront costs. “If it’s an incremental cost, but the benefits are clearly evident, it’s an easy decision,” commented Eric Tritch. “If it’s a significant cost, we want the data beforehand to prove it, and it needs to be legitimate.”
Panelists mentioned their teams use dashboards and scorecards to measure performance, but they also value suppliers with good process controls in place that are tied to product quality and help enhance outcomes. “There’s no single, universal measure for all providers to rally behind,” said Tritch, “but length of stay-related ones are very important.”
Providers are also willing to help their vendor partners with product evaluations. “If I have a product or safety decision to make, I have 36 possible hospitals that can conduct a trial for me in real-time,” shared Michael Prokopis.
It’s patients and people
One factor that can get lost among data and product discussions is the human component, both for patients and care providers. “Ease of use and staff training factor into product decisions,” said Tom Lubotsky. “If there are real efficiencies to be gained, that’s something that resonates with providers.”
Patient satisfaction absolutely plays a role in supply chain decisions, as evidenced by a story Michael Prokopis shared. When evaluating beverage contracts for his organization, he received the directive, “We don’t care which you choose, just don’t negatively impact patient satisfaction scores.”
Panelists closed by stressing that suppliers and providers alike would be wise to remember that patients are the ones who need to be best served by quality products. “Work with us beyond the point of sale,” said Eric Tritch. “If I know your products are aligned with our patient goals and sales reps are incentivized beyond sales volume, that goes a long way.”