Childhood is unpredictable, but excellent health care shouldn’t be. Across the country, Vizient member hospitals work tirelessly to ensure pediatric patients receive the most effective treatments when and where they need it.
In January, Vizient began hearing from many of its members that the manufacturer of Pedialyte® had decided to discontinue its unflavored 2-ounce product. For infants and children with mild to moderate dehydration due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and other conditions, children’s hospitals turn to oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte as a preferred first-line treatment.
Members favor Pedialyte’s unflavored product because it doesn’t introduce a flavor preference, contains fewer chemicals and additives, and, for older children, can be mixed with juice. Hospitals favor the 2-ounce ready-to-use size because of its convenience when used with bottle-feeding infants, which also prevents waste.
The manufacturer’s decision to discontinue the product followed an SKU optimization process, a common practice for companies as it helps reduce inventory costs and cut down on the complexities in procurement, production and distribution processes.
“Looking at products from a purely business or manufacturing perspective is understandable, however in some cases it doesn’t tell the whole story. While its utilization may be low relative to other products, the unflavored 2-ounce Pedialyte product is extremely important to our children’s hospital members,” says Sarah Herrmann, senior portfolio executive with Vizient.
Hospitals then had to purchase the manufacturer’s unflavored 1-liter product, which introduced challenges with storage, waste and sterility. “When you go from individual-sized bottles to a 1-liter container, you’re wasting a lot of product as each bottle must be used within 48 hours of it being opened,” says Herrmann.
As Herrmann heard from members about the impact on waste, cost and overall quality of care as a result of the change, she engaged with the Vizient Pediatric Council. The Council provides input on pediatric product contracting decisions to ensure contracts best meet the needs of its members. The Pediatric Council is made up of representatives from small, medium and large member hospitals across the country.
“Communication was coming from our pediatric hospitals and other Vizient sourcing colleagues. Members were very passionate about the change and the impact it was having on patient care and the sheer amount of additional waste. They wanted an opportunity to have their voices heard and work toward a solution,” says Herrmann. “I had one member tell me they calculated that it would cost the hospital an extra $70,000 a year to use the 1-liter bottles instead of the 2-ounce size.”
Vizient and its Pediatric Council calculated the additional costs and shared the data – along with market insight as to the unique product niche in patient care – with the manufacturer to illustrate the impact of their decision.
While the 2-ounce product was unavailable, Vizient added the 1-liter product to its agreement with the manufacturer and negotiated an equivalent price per ounce so that there would be no disadvantage to Vizient members from a price perspective.
From January into February, Herrmann worked closely with the manufacturer, sharing new data and feedback from members. “We presented our case and the concerns we heard from members about the discontinuation of the product. Ultimately, it was a manufacturing decision, so I must give kudos to my national account manager contact at the manufacturer for being open to having the conversation and then escalating the issue within the organization to affect change,” says Herrmann.
The diligent and collaborative approach worked. The 2-ounce size product became available again in March.
Keeping focus on infants and children
Across health care, manufacturers commonly focus the majority of their product development efforts on the adult patient population, leaving a gap in medical devices, instruments, supplies and medications that are designed specifically for infants and younger patients.
“The pediatric population is very important, but also small from a market share perspective,” says Herrmann. “For the Vizient Pediatric Council and for our pediatric hospital members, it was a really big win and we applaud the manufacturer for listening and taking action to enable hospitals to have the product they need for optimal patient care.”
Vizient looks to its members to serve in an advisory capacity for the development and enhancement of supply contracts and programs. For more information about how to get involved and join a council, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.