In the current economic and political climate, supply chain leaders and CFOs are consistently looking to lower their supply operations costs, gain efficiencies and make measurable advances toward achieving clinical-supply integration.

Each is critically important but advancing toward clinical-supply integration offers the biggest opportunity to realize the most improvement. It is also the most challenging component of what Vizient calls The Care Equation™.

The Care Equation is our vision for a better way forward. It’s about answering today’s most pressing needs while providing innovative solutions that ensure a sustainable cost structure, reduce unnecessary clinical and operational variation, improve clinical outcomes and execute strategies for market success. 

Specifically for supply chain operations, The Care Equation means executing flawlessly to ensure clinicians can focus on delivering patient care. It means being ready with pertinent product information and attributes to support clinical decision-making that improves patient care. This contributes both directly and indirectly to lowering costs while freeing staff resources to focus on developing the significant level of organizational engagement required for clinical-supply integration.

“Effective engagement with clinical stakeholders is not a new concept and, the value analysis process, in place in varying degrees in most hospitals, is a great example of engagement in action. However, achieving clinical-supply integration moves the goal posts for engagement. To start the conversation with stakeholders, begin by clearly defining the end state of clinical-supply integration,” said Marty Lucenti, MD, PhD, senior vice president, advisory solutions for Vizient.

Through interaction with our members, Vizient defines the characteristics of clinical-integration as engagement, insights, knowledge and process.

Enhancing clinical-supply integration through engagement

Supply chain partnerships take many forms, and success is measured in many different ways. In collaboration with clinical stakeholders, enhancing clinical quality through supply integration is an appropriate measure of success and should be a primary goal.

Effective engagement frequently includes executive and clinical champions of clinical-supply integration as a means to highlight the strategic importance of the approach to the health system. Equally important to the success of engagement are aligned goals and shared incentives.

“If supply chain operations are focusing only on cost reduction and clinical stakeholders are focusing only on patient care, the opportunities for mutual success are relatively small,” Lucenti said. “If, instead, the objective is delivering the best quality care at the most competitive total cost, success takes a broader form.”

Delivering actionable performance insights

A key distinction between a clinically integrated and a segregated supply chain is the ability to monitor and measure performance in a way that includes clinical measures of success and considers relative performance to peers. Understanding the total cost of care at the procedure level, how that cost compares to others and how outcomes vary across physicians are the types of actionable insights that characterize a clinically integrated supply chain.

Offering evidence-based knowledge on product performance

Within the context of clinical-supply integration, if supply chain stakeholders are held responsible for providing product information to support a clinical decision, a key component of this responsibility is timely validation of supplier claims of product performance.

“For example, if a supplier tells a physician that the benefits of a gender-specific medical device outweigh the higher relative cost to the non-gender specific device, a clinically integrated supply chain will offer physicians the peer-reviewed evidence to determine if the claim is valid or not,” said Lucenti.

Driving engaged stakeholder involvement with process

The final characteristic of clinical-supply integration is the intentional and deliberate addition of clinicians to processes that may have traditionally been considered exclusive to supply chain operations. The concept of a clinically integrated contracting process is one such example, where the criteria for consideration in contracting are well defined and scoped by clinical stakeholders and balanced against the traditional financial measures of success used by supply chain leaders. This intentional wiring can extend to inventory management (to ensure “trunk stock” isn’t flooding the operating room) and to purchasing (to help reduce the number of special or x-type orders).

“Supply chain leaders play a critical role in advancing clinical-supply integration,” Lucenti said. “Success means that organizations can unleash new opportunities that support the value-based model of care.”

For more information about how to chart a new course toward better cost, quality and outcomes with clinical-supply integration, contact us today.

Published: March 28, 2017