You know what they say: If you’ve seen one chronic wound, you’ve seen one chronic wound.
It’s common knowledge among providers how difficult it is to standardize wound treatment. Patients are unique and they rarely come to the hospital or wound clinic with the same history, home environment or ability to care for existing comorbidities that may inhibit wound healing. Further complicating matters is the fact that advanced wound care (AWC) is a complex product supply category. However, through an enhanced value analysis process, several major health systems have been able to minimize the number of AWC suppliers they use which, in turn, has reduced treatment variability and lowered costs.
Those who have achieved success have started by assembling a multidisciplinary team to work on an AWC savings initiative. In addition to wound care staff, representation on this team might also include nursing, education, value analysis, case management, outpatient clinic (particularly diabetic and foot center staff), and physicians at your facility who specialize in treating chronic wounds. Once that’s in place, the following list of activities can help identify and capitalize on standardization and savings opportunities.
Study AWC product usage across your organization
As a first step, know which suppliers you’re using, what sub-category of AWC products you’re using them for and where you’re using them across the organization. This level of detailed and accurate information will help to identify overlaps in product type. Maybe your outpatient area is using a different supplier for hydrogels than your wound clinic. Having this data and insight enables team discussions to be more focused on opportunities to standardize rather than solely about product preference.
Keep product variety
It’s important for supply chain leaders not to rush to the highest level of commitment with a wound care vendor before working with clinicians to determine a reasonable threshold. The AWC space is very complex, with a wide variety of product types and applications. Wound nurses need the flexibility to use a variety of products that result in wound healing. In essence, having a ‘sushi list’ to choose from for difficult cases can result in improved outcomes and patient satisfaction. Be careful not to cut all the options. When you’re too strict, it results in clinicians ordering products outside of the normal process, or the facility seeing an increase in cost due to non-compliance, negating any potential savings.
Talk to your surgical teams
There are times when wounds require surgical treatement. In addition to AWC products, physicians have an option of using synthetic and biologic products for chronic wounds. In some cases, there’s a reimbursement consideration here, and it’s essential as part of the overall process to include and understand your hospital and physician practice. Furthermore, working with your doctors to identify when a less-costly alternative might be the best approach to care could lead to a more coordinated patient experience in both the inpatient and outpatient setting.
Discuss standardization opportunities with suppliers
With usage information captured across all facilities, you can either work to standardize products with your current supplier or explore new conversion opportunities. Looking to move more spend to suppliers you’re already purchasing from a majority of the time not only streamlines your supply chain, it may also be easier to reach additional savings because you’re increasing contract compliance. Alternatively, the opposite is also true. Exploring conversion opportunities could be the gateway to additional savings, as long as the clinical team is in favor of the move.
Use available resources to educate clinicians
Ask suppliers to provide clinical studies regarding patient outcomes and any other support they have. They can help with product categorization and usage validation as well as bring in educational resources. Consider using suppliers as additional support to help where you and your team feel comfortable.
Another option to consider is creating a reference guide to help the staff standardize product selection at the point of care. The data collected from the product usage study across the organization can be used to build customized resource guides.
In any supply chain project that directly impacts patient care, it’s important to engage clinicians early and often. While the wound care team is the primary driver, wounds are also treated in many areas within the hospital. Gathering insights and information from across the organization during the initiative will lead to more than cost savings. It will create opportunities for collaboration between clinicians, administrators and value analysis teams on processes, procedures and education. This type of collaboration leads to a systematic, advanced wound care product selection process that reduces practice variability, improves outcomes and maximizes savings for your organization.
About the author. In her role as senior portfolio executive at Vizient, Tearah Ott combines her clinical expertise and industry experience to leverage Vizient solutions that drive industry-leading contract value. She is responsible for managing the skin and wound contract portfolio as well as leading the Vizient Member Wound Care Contracting Council. Her background includes value analysis experience and clinical practice in neonatal and newborn care.