14 must-know supply chain tips for ASCs

Here are 14 essential supply chain tips collected from experts across the ASC industry.

1. When a supply chain shortage occurs, ASCs should have a plan in place to continue operations, according to Cheryl Poplaski, Vizient's senior director of supply chain operations.

"Taking the time and effort in advance to plan for shortages and stock-out situations will prepare your team quickly and efficiently when a disruption occurs. It will give you the ability to provide your organization with information, alternatives and product updates on a timely basis," Ms. Poplaski said.

2. ASCs should involve all stakeholders in order to control costs, according to Westchester, Ill.-based Regent Surgical Health. Regent shared the following supply chain tip on their blog:

"A supply chain and inventory management program that involves all stakeholders is critical to controlling costs within the supply chain. ASCs should dedicate a motivational supply chain champion who can walk staff through the goals they are trying to achieve, whether that means keeping an ASC's doors open or finding better products that improve patient safety."

3.Only opening or using supplies as you need them can help ASCs save money on supply chain according to Sam Goldberger, MD, who shared supply chain insights with Eye Care Leaders.

“There is often a ‘knee-jerk’ response of opening up all supplies ahead of a case. But even the basic supplies used in a procedure can differ depending on the case’s particulars. Whenever possible, try opening supplies only when they’re needed. Enlisting cooperating of your surgeons and clinical staff could really minimize your expenses," he said.

4. Supply ordering can be made more efficient through using technology, according to Inventory Optimization Solutions. Inventory Optimization Solutions shared the following tip on how to improve materials management processes on their blog:

"Staff members in centers wear a lot of hats, moving from patient care to management tasks to supply ordering. We often hear they don’t have enough time for ordering supplies with all of the other urgent matters they face, so technology and processes must enable the most automated, efficient ordering. By building an enterprise formulary, and directing clinicians to standardize, procurement processes are streamlined. Use tools like barcode scanners to instantly create orders for replenishment."

5. Working with group purchasing organizations and aggregators can help ASCs cut supply chain costs, according to an article in Medline's Outpatient Outcomes magazine.

Here is one way ASCs can save money with aggregation and GPOs:

"One way to lower medical supply costs is by working with a group purchasing organization to negotiate with manufacturers and obtain better pricing. Most ASCs currently work with a GPO. However, if you want to get even more aggressive cost savings — and additional, value-added benefits — your ASC may want to consider partnering with an aggregator through your supply distributor."

6. Collecting data on third-party contracts can simplify the process of lowering supply chain costs, according to Vizient, a healthcare management consulting company.Vizient shared the following supply chain tip on its blog:

"Start gathering the data by making a list of all third-party vendors used throughout the organization and their associated stakeholders. It's important to speak with every stakeholder on your list and review each vendor's contract.

There are a few key things to look for in your service contracts:

• What's my rate?
• What are the scaling terms?
• Is there an auto-renewal in place? If so, when?
• What are the termination clauses?"

7. Defining objectives and seeking out industry perspectives can help administrators tackle supply chain challenges, according to Jeff Lawrence, Inventory Optimization Solutions' vice president of business development. He shared the following tip on Inventory Optimization Solutions' blog:

"In my role, I work across many organizations, and have found I can offer industry perspective to help determine specific supply chain objectives, then compare those to best practices. There’s definitely progress being made in organizations throughout the continuum of care and you can find best practices that have worked for other clinics. Start by defining objectives. Once these are established, a roadmap can be developed and the work to improve supply chain efficiencies by implementing new technology and business processes can begin."

8. Keeping an eye on performance metrics can help increase supply chain efficiency for ASCs, said Molly Ehrlich, Vizient's consulting director of advisory solutions for supply chain operations.

"Routine metrics should cover financial and operational effectiveness, but it is also important to include metrics that can lead to opportunities for improvement and innovation initiatives. For example, include measures that would show if freight was reduced when orders were placed every Monday and Thursday versus randomly," she said. "Report on the number of SKUs managed and trend that number when undertaking product standardization to show the decrease in SKUs."

9. ASCs can be more efficient when considering alternative supply sources, according to H-Source CEO John Kupice. H-Source is a hospital supply chain platform.

"Alternate sourcing can reap big savings and eliminate waste by allowing for variable quantity purchases, [like if a practice] needs two instead of a box of six," he said.

10. Surgery centers should develop an ordering strategy rather than placing orders on demand, according to Medline's Antonia Finlayson, vice president of marketing for specialty sales. Ms. Finlayson published the following tip in Medline's Outpatient Outcomes magazine:

"Review contracts and current orders. Is everything on the order on contract? If not, could you switch to something that is on contract or talk to your rep about getting the supply you need on a contract?

"When looking at your entire strategy, you will notice communication and collaboration will be important. Communicate with your clinical staff and with your representative. The inefficiencies will present themselves when the entire team is working together, and your supplier might have fresh ideas to reduce costs because they may have resources to help track and share information, and offer an outside perspective of your ordering process."

11. ASCs should prevent vendors from pushing products on physicians by implementing restrictions, according to Quorum Purchasing Advantage Vice President Tony Bramer.

"Just like in a hospital, strongly control access to physicians by outside vendors. We recommend [making] it a win-win for physicians. In many cases, they really don't want to be interrupted by vendors," he said.

12. ASC supply chain management requires a tailored approach, according to Navigant Consulting director Rob Austin and consultant Joe Pesek.

"A common mistake health systems make, particularly as they emphasize centralization of core nonclinical business functions, is they try to run the supply chain for their ASCs as if the centers are just another acute care facility," Mr. Austin and Mr. Pesek said in a joint email to Becker's ASC Review.

13. ASC managers can reduce expenses by controlling the transportation of supplies and equipment, according to FreightCenter's Terese Kerrigan, director of marketing communications. Supply chains can save as much as $100 on the cost of each shipment by reducing the weight of a shipment by 50 lbs., she said.

14. Asking physicians to use products that align with their desired outcomes is more effective than convincing them to use new products just because they're less expensive, according to Quorum Purchasing Advantage Vice President Tony Bramer. Mr. Bramer said ASC supply chain leaders should also look at the top 25 percent of costliest inventory items and evaluate whether purchasing in a low measure would deliver better long-term results.

More articles on supply chain:
ASC supply chain tip of the day: Have a disruption plan
Aetna expands coverage for Exparel in select Florida and New Jersey ASCs: 3 details
4 trends forcing medical device companies to overhaul traditional supply chains

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