by Stephanie Cooley and LaTammy Marks
Senior Product Advisors

Did you know that your supply chain’s DNA resides in your item master? When you think about the DNA of your item master, it should consist of good, solid building blocks. After all, one definition of DNA is “the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something.” The building blocks create a solid foundation that’s the lifeline of your supply chain. Ensuring clean data allows your organization to obtain the right product, at the right price, at the right time.

Your item master contains key information that supports purchasing and inventory planning activities. Failure to maintain the health of your item master has a downstream effect, creating organizational inefficiencies and potentially hindering patient care. Following are three vital DNA building blocks that health care professionals should include within their item master to improve a supply chain’s efficiency.

Accurate supplier name and supplier catalog number

Recently, we were working with a large IDN in the Midwest on a market share analysis project.  A huge problem was discovered, where missing and/or incorrect supplier information was being recorded in their item master. This missing building block resulted in inaccurate reporting of market share. The absent data created a gap because there wasn’t a place to allocate spend appropriately. A task force was created to review the item master for any missing information and this initiative ensured that a correct supplier name and catalog number was attached to each product entry. This simple action resulted in the IDN’s ability to improve their market share. Designated market share in turn, created new opportunities for contract negotiation, and ultimately, improved the organization’s buying power. 

Valid contract name and price accuracy

After this organization discovered increased product and spend identification, it enabled them to properly maintain their contract module to ensure pricing accuracy and prevent pricing exceptions. Another building block that contributed to this organization’s overall DNA was the benefit of contract compliance, ensuring that additional tiers were available to achieve potential cost savings. They quickly learned that clean item master data supported analytics to validate market share with manufacturers, which was quite useful in future business reviews with suppliers. 

Complete product description

Although different organizations have various standards and limitations related to product descriptions, the final building block of your item master’s foundation should include clear, concise descriptions. Best practices for a robust product description require 10 or more characters, including a main noun, type/application and key attributes. A complete product description assists with categorization of UNSPSC, HCPCS and other attribution assignments. Clear product descriptions allows for ease in interfacing between MMIS and the EHR, allowing for documentation of patient care and charging. It further allows the item master analyst, clinical staff and any downstream departments to readily identify products with less confusion.

Taking these steps to improve the DNA of your item master results in your organization’s ability to receive the right product, at the right price, at the right time. Removing outdated data and inaccurate information no longer takes up bandwidth within the item master. It allows your organization to be in control of your pricing and keeps price from controlling you. In addition, product description is one of the core pieces of information utilized for identification purposes. It’s imperative in creating a foundation for obtaining the right product the first time. Taking these steps to creating and maintaining a clean item master will contribute to the overall health (and DNA) of your organization’s data.

For more information on the importance of a quality item master, read this white paper.

About the authors. Stephanie Cooley and LaTammy Marks currently work on the Vizient DataLYNX product delivery team and possess a combined 18 years of supply chain experience and 26 years of health care experience. In their current roles, they provide services to members that include identifying opportunities to improve control of spend, ensuring data quality and focusing on data completeness to improve efficiency. They also guide members in cost reduction and provide actionable analytics necessary to make informed decisions quickly. Cooley’s area of expertise includes delivering item master best practices, relationship building, data mining and contract compliance. Marks’ area of expertise includes perioperative nursing, health care improvement, clinical informatics and value analysis. She was also a speaker at the Association of Healthcare Value Analysis Professionals (AHVAP) conference. For more information, contact Stephanie Cooley or LaTammy Marks.


Published: September 25, 2019