Hospitals are among the most intensive consumers of energy in the United States, with 3 to 5 percent of their annual budget going to energy costs. Yet many continue to overpay for energy supply by relying on traditional purchasing methods. Unfortunately, those methods rarely deliver the best price for the hospital.
Unlike supply chain purchasing for commodity items, the energy market requires a totally different approach that’s more akin to managing market-sensitive assets and liabilities, such as the hospital’s bond portfolio. To be successful, a hospital needs to be able to decide between hedge purchasing versus index decisions (or a combination of both), using financial probability modeling.
“We see many members issuing request for proposals using just their own volume, or in some cases, buying their energy with minimal market intelligence,” said Will Gowan, senior director, contract services for Vizient. “The Vizient energy program, which facilitates the implementation of energy procurement best practices, is helping hospitals realize significant savings.”
Three Vizient members have booked $3.7 million in budget savings by adopting these best practices in energy procurement and management:
- Use of analytics to manage market risk and capture savings
- Internal alignment of facilities, finance and supply chain staff around a central strategy that integrates both supply and demand management
- Aggregation of spend with other hospitals to drive cost savings
WellSpan Health, a growing multihospital network based in south central Pennsylvania, realized a $2.1 million savings over their current contract term by transitioning from a traditional bid-based, fixed-rate procurement method to an actively managed market approach. A first step in the transition was organizing a multidisciplinary committee, consisting of the chief financial officer, chief operating officer, treasury vice president and key facility directors, who actively manage the electricity and natural gas spend across the organization’s facilities.
The committee then made the decision to join an aggregation network with other Vizient members and was able to reduce electricity supplier margins by 50 percent. Additionally, they have begun using statistical market analysis to identify savings opportunities in the forward markets, which led to a new contract design where the health system layers its energy purchasing over time. According to Richard Harley, vice president of corporate treasury services at WellSpan, “Our organization now manages its energy spend much as it does other market-sensitive assets and liabilities.”
Another health system seeing a reduction in costs as a result of adopting best practices and having access to analytics through a Vizient energy partner is Lifespan, one of New England’s leading health systems. Lifespan had already taken steps to more directly control its energy costs by recently building a cogeneration plant at its Rhode Island hospital campus. While that step was yielding cost savings, they wanted to take their energy program to the next level.
“We now have access to the highest level of financial and market analytics available in the industry,” said Tom Magliochetti, vice president of facilities at Lifespan. As a result, Lifespan saved $1 million on an already well-managed energy budget and is continuing to integrate and optimize both its on-campus assets and its market procurement processes to drive savings.
At the same time, OhioHealth, a 12-hospital IDN based in Columbus, has revitalized its energy management by implementing all three best practice principles. “The market forecasting and analytics were the key difference in reducing OhioHealth’s energy procurement costs by more than $600,000 over the past year,” said Alan Nelson, system vice president of treasury at OhioHealth. “Even more importantly, the health system has transitioned to managing energy using a team approach.”
“Vizient’s mission is to drive savings for our members. While we are confident every Vizient member can find benefit regardless of market conditions, we haven’t stopped working to improve," said Gowan. “We're currently conducting an outreach to all Vizient members interested in improving their energy results through our best-practices approach. We would particularly like to hear from member facilities, finance, and supply chain leaders so we can perform an assessment to discover opportunities and drive greater savings for all participants,” said Gowan.