Five supply chain and inventory experts examine how the medical supply chain landscape has evolved in the past five years, where it's heading in the future and how ASCs can adapt.
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Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and style.
Lacey Dyer, RN, BSN. Vice president of clinical operations for Surgical Investors and Advisors: Employees and companies have developed platforms and processes for acquiring products and equipment at competitive prices. New companies have risen out of this need with refurbished equipment or providing bulk supply of products. Management companies are negotiating preferred pricing and service agreements as well as group purchasing organization reviews for best options. So, how can ASCs adapt? In the ASC industry, decreasing facility case costing is the No. 1 way to demonstrate to the ownership that you are focused on profitability for their centers. Using a management system from day one along with regular inventory reviews will help keep the centers on track. Routine verification that contracted pricing is correctly loaded in all vendor sites will also help maintain the savings negotiated.
Garry Cooper, PhD. CEO and co-founder of Rheaply: Data and analytics have made us rethink what the supply chain means in a clinical setting. Value-based medicine is now unanimously considered a better way to approach healthcare. But by and large, there still needs to [be a] better way to connect new technology to everyday ASC processes and turn this data into an opportunity to reduce waste and unnecessary expenses in ASCs. From a resource procurement perspective, manufacturers have to know what they have and what's needed at all times, [as well as] when it's going to expire, and then use that information to be able to make informed decisions about purchasing equipment or exchanging surplus equipment. This could be donating or exchanging items from one healthcare facility to another facility.
Mark Mele. National vice president of sales and marketing for Casetabs: Driven initially by the desire to improve supply chain inefficiencies, sterilization parameters are impacting the supply chain landscape. Hospitals now require trays/implants to be dropped off 24 to 48 hours prior to a procedure, which allows for more thorough sterilization. Expect to see this new parameter carry over to ASCs.
ASCs are known for excellent patient safety, therefore they will not want to fall behind hospitals in their sterilization efforts. This will require a change in how surgeries are coordinated so the right medical devices and implants arrive in a timely manner. Surgery coordination is very fragmented today; physician offices, surgery centers, materials managers [and] medical/vendor reps all rely on their own communication methods. When this happens, it is easy for important details to be missed, the wrong implant to arrive or even multiple implants [to arrive]. The ability to break down communication silos with one centralized surgery communication hub will be essential to ensuring the right device is on hand within the required 24- to 48-hour window.
Carl Natenstedt. CEO of Z5 Inventory: The ASC supply chain has been consistently increasing in sophistication for years, and it's continuing in that direction. The early days were characterized by thrown-together, homemade inventory solutions. But now that ASCs are [partnering more] with each other, they're able to flex some of their buying power to avoid suppliers taking advantage of them — which was happening, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.
Now, [ASCs] need to focus on the less obvious problems, implementing more specialized, time-intensive practices to get where they want to be — where they need to be, frankly. Process improvement, value analysis and inventory management are the kinds of advancements that will put them into the league of the giant hospital systems they're becoming more like every day.
Ruben Taborda. Senior director of supply chain customer solutions for Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems: Outpatient care is one of the fastest growing spaces in U.S. healthcare. Healthcare reform has prompted healthcare providers across the ecosystem to think differently about strategies and how they work with suppliers. For ASCs, which are largely standalone, independent sites and with differing operational models, what works for one may not work for all. Suppliers need to tailor to the unique needs of ASCs. Areas of opportunity include minimizing inventory on hand given limited space in the ASC by delivering only the devices needed for a specific patient case; streamlining the number and size of instrument trays needed, thus reducing the burden and cost of case set up, clean up and sterilization; and coordinating deliveries with the surgery schedule so that surgical supplies arrive exactly when needed, reducing the physical footprint of on-hand inventory.
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