How special hats can help ASCs slash supply chain costs — 4 tips from Quorum VP Tony Bramer

Physicians at ASCs are often invested in the facility, with financial ramifications for decisions they make. That investment can make it easier for supply chain leaders to build rapport with physicians and affect change, according to Quorum Purchasing Advantage Vice President Tony Bramer.

Drawing on more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Bramer shared four tips with Becker's ASC Review on how ASCs can work with physicians to cut supply costs.

1. Make learning fun. ASC supply chain leaders should begin with educating physicians on the exact costs of products and supplies. Pointing out differences between the products physicians use can motivate them to make alternative choices.

"The first thing I encourage ASC supply people to do is to help the physicians understand [the cost of products] by either putting up information in the physicians' lounge or other areas where physicians tend to wait — to help them understand the actual costs of the choices they're making," Mr. Bramer said. "That can be done by a little display table. I've seen some people do it through various games and contests [like] 'guess which item's more expensive.'"

2. Understand total supply costs vs. reimbursement. Surgery centers need to understand the component costs and supply costs in a case, as well as what the reimbursement is for that case, Mr. Bramer said. That information should then be relayed to physicians.

3. Take an outcomes-based approach. If supply chain managers ask physicians to look at a different product because it's less expensive, the idea is dead in the water, according to Mr. Bramer. He recommends asking physicians what outcomes they're trying to achieve with the specific products they're using.

"Once you understand what they expect that product to do, then you can say, 'I've got another product I believe will meet or exceed those outcomes,'" Mr. Bramer said. "They'll be more apt to take a look at that."

4. Control vendor access to physicians. Just like in a hospital, ASCs should strongly control access to physicians by outside vendors, Mr. Bramer said. The supply leader should be a gatekeeper, explaining that they value physicians' time and will meet with vendors first to see the value of a product. It's a "win-win" for physicians, who in many cases don't want to be interrupted by vendors.

"If you allow the vendors to have free reign, they tend to corner physicians or find ways to push their products. So, we encourage ASCs to restrict vendor access to physicians [and] to clearly designate the person as a vendor. What we recommend is that [vendors] have a special colored cap. Any vendor that's in the surgical area has to wear that cap — that way, you know they're a vendor and not an employee. And if they tend to be hanging around the physician lounge too much, you can kind of shoo them away."

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