Integration is a term popping up all over healthcare right now. I’ve heard (among others) integrating:
- Health information technology systems
- Supply chain across the continuum of care
- Supply costs and outcomes data for a health system’s patients
There are several reasons integration has become a buzzword in today’s healthcare environment.
The ACA has driven home the need for better care coordination. Coordinating patient care is an essential component for ensuring that patients receive the right care in the right place at the right time.
Health systems are expanding to cover more ground with ambulatory care centers, primary care clinics and other facilities. Which means more facilities providing consistent, high-quality care. It also means more IT platforms and more pharmacy and supply formularies.
That’s why solutions that cover a process life cycle (such as supply procurement) are becoming more prominent.
According to supply chain respondents to Premier’s semiannual Economic Outlook survey, their health system’s cost savings goal remains the biggest issue impacting supply chain in the next 12 months.
Instead of different supply chain procurement processes and tools at all of the facilities within a health system, having a cohesive, connected system results in better coordination and better pricing.
It’s essential to combine the disparate steps within the procurement cycle and put them on a single platform. As a result, you’ll gain visibility into the products being ordered, where and by whom across the health system.
Another area emerging with this emphasis on managing the life cycle is purchased services.
Purchased services can account for more than 20% of a health system’s expenses. Some hospitals spend as much on services as they do on supplies.
But, unlike supply chain, purchased services typically aren’t centrally managed. In most cases, departments within a hospital contract for their own services. For example, the Human Resources department oversees staffing management firms and the Finance department oversees billing services.
Extend that across a system with many sites. It can result in numerous overlapping vendors and services and a plethora of contracts that drive costs up.
To get a handle on purchased services spend, health systems are focusing on bringing all of those contracts into one central repository. Then categorizing spend so that there’s visibility into areas where vendors or contracts can be consolidated.
Ongoing management ensures:
- Contracted services are rendered with the appropriate service levels
- Contracts are renegotiated before the end of each term
While purchased services has a long way to go to become streamlined like supply procurement, the same concept of integrating the steps in the process applies.
According to survey respondents of Premier’s Economic Outlook survey, supply chain integration is one of the top tactics for improving the supply chain being used in the next 12 months. And it’s growing! Fewer than 20% of respondents chose it as a top tactic in fall 2012. While almost 35% say they’re focusing on it as of the spring 2015 survey.
Centralized purchasing, in line with the concept of integration, also sits on the top 5 list of tactics being used for supply chain for ¼ of respondents.
Health systems continue to explore alternative payment and delivery models to make care more accessible and affordable. And in doing so, they’re identifying existing and emerging process gaps.
It’s our job to button up each step to create a streamlined and cohesive method for managing costs.