by Deborah Roy
Principal, Clinical Advisory Solutions
05/12/20

Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we incorporate all of the lessons learned? How do we forecast the new normal? What path or template will help health care systems and hospitals sequence decisions and guide change? 

The disruption caused by this pandemic has been unparalleled. And now, health care organizations face unprecedented challenges as they make their way through the confusion and uncertainty redefining former strategies and tactics, if not the mission itself. Providers are anxious to get back to work, patients continue to require care and senior leaders are plotting a course through uncharted waters. Planning activities will need to be strategic, flexible and informed by the most accurate data available of the new landscape.   

Decisions now facing organizations in the post-COVID landscape may involve more virtual care platforms, remote monitoring, services outside of their facilities, as well as changes in technology and regulatory guidelines. Post-pandemic strategies will have to solve for patients who are skeptical of the safety of the hospital environment, and be scalable as volumes increase.

The principles of clinical-supply integration (CSI) are at the core of planning for the new normal. Bringing together the right people, the right process and the right clinical and financial data are central to making sense of the disruption and identifying the opportunities right in front of us. CSI brings together an interdisciplinary body of people who share a vision that together, we can strive to understand opportunities and make decisions based on value. 

COVID-19 has created a new environment for relationships, performance improvement and the measurement of outcomes. With CSI, multidisciplinary teams are valued and entrusted to find solutions, remove silos and frame decision-making with accurate financial and quality data. By enabling CSI as the backbone of reactivation, several key areas gain more clarity:

  1. Financial: Health care system and hospital spending was frenzied and, at times chaotic, during the surge preparation. Which decisions paid off and which proved wasteful? Which products, services and devices should be sustained in the future? CSI can address utilization and variation with a tool that has optics into provider-specific procedural data.
  2. Clinical: CSI can organize targeted debrief sessions with key providers to understand lessons learned, including the decision-making process itself. What was the impact of agility on the productivity of decision-making efforts regarding necessary supplies and innovative treatment options? What data sources were used? Was evidence a part of the criteria? How were ethical concerns handled? Does the organization have the ability to identify the best quality-driven practices for supply utilization among their peers? Sustainable solutions need to be developed to implement the best quality-driven practices to maximize outcomes and manage future planning needs.
  3. Procurement and utilization: A resilient CSI process has the ability to address how supplies are utilized and procured. What clean up needs to occur now to move back to a common formulary with second and third clinically approved choices? Through strong clinical decision processes a review of all recent purchasing includes where to standardize, eliminate, evaluate and seek opportunities for variation in practice.                                                                                       
  4. Supply: How is your organization prioritizing for elective surgeries, outpatient and practice- related changes, along with more robust home health capabilities? CSI should assist in prioritizing supply decisions. Short-term ad hoc groups of providers may be recruited for feedback and input into long-term requirements. 
  5. Process redesign: A comprehensive process assessment may yield a 360-degree view of supply integration opportunities in both the acute and post-acute segments. How does that look now versus pre-pandemic? Are you prepared to review the new way of decision-making and how that impacts procedures and service distribution? The new normal will eventually reveal delivery areas that are not sustainable, as well as areas that warrant innovative thinking and investment. The sooner such distinctions are understood, the better for patients and providers alike. CSI is more important than ever before – both for collective decision-making and producing safe, quality patient care at a fair market price.   

The move to re-entry is complex. Resources operating under guidelines and policies for CSI can provide the project management, communication assets, and change management expertise needed to reduce fear and uncertainty. 

Vizient has the capability to stage clinical initiative areas on a prioritized basis through its proprietary strategic planning methodology. As a company we are poised and ready to continue to provide a foundation for clinical decision-making, supported by robust data and comprehensive change management. To learn how Vizient Advisory Solutions can help your organization tackle post-COVID disruption, contact the clinical supply integration team: blane.schilling@vizient.com or deborah.roy@vizientinc.com.

About the author. With more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry, Deborah Roy has held numerous leadership roles responsible for the creation, development and measurement of value analysis teams, and clinical supply integration effort consistently exceeding targeted savings projections. In her role as principal at Vizient, Roy leads efforts to assist our members in achieving best practice protocols for how members can optimize clinical integration across all clinical operations. Partnering with organizations to apply accountable, provider-led decision-making principles, she creates governance processes that lead interdisciplinary teams in the development of customized approaches that support clinical and budgetary goals.