Not too long ago, the supply chain’s sole responsibility was order taking and procurement. But as the industry continues to evolve and hospitals take on value-based models, the healthcare supply chain’s responsibilities have evolved as well, and education is crucial to this evolution.
The supply chain has always evolved in tandem with reimbursement policies—from unfettered purchasing, when reimbursement was largely open-ended, to a focus on cost containment as healthcare spending escalated. Today is no different. The value-based reimbursement system rewards providers that decrease costs while improving quality and outcomes, creating a better, more cost-effective healthcare system. Hospitals must have a plan for how they will create a sustainable financial model in this new reimbursement system—and supply chain professionals should know and understand what that plan is, as their role is inextricably tied to their organization’s ability to meet that goal. This means creating an education plan that balances traditional job-based training with new value-based, clinically focused education.
The benefits of creating such a plan include raising employee awareness about current industry issues and how they impact both expenses and care delivery; fostering the ability to quickly and efficiently manage new and more sophisticated concepts with varied stakeholders; creating new competencies, expectations, and a culture of continuous improvement; and increasing productivity and job satisfaction.
Before developing a plan, it’s best to get executive-level support. Support from a top executive or C-suite member will add legitimacy to efforts, ensure that education is a priority, and encourage staff attendance at education sessions. If possible, identify an executive to champion your program who has shown an affinity for continuing education or who currently leads education efforts in another vertical.
Group purchasing organizations (GPOs) can also offer assistance. For instance, a member hospital recently approached Acurity because it needed to develop staff education that would help support its organizational cost reduction goal. Acurity’s subject matter experts addressed that goal by developing a curriculum for training medical residents and clinicians about the importance of value analysis, a topic that, surprisingly, was seldom discussed during their formal education. Through quarterly value analysis training, Acurity helped physicians and residents better understand their impact on supply chain costs and the implications their future clinical orders have on spend, patients, and the delivery of care. Training topics included the relationship between item cost and patient outcomes, determining what affects clinical outcomes, and learning new skills to achieve different results. The plan aimed to decrease spend at the source—in this case physician preference items. Acurity (the hospital’s designated GPO) championed the effort, which led to significant savings. Much of the program’s success can also be attributed to the support provided by hospital leaders. The program’s executive sponsors served on the education Steering Committee, prioritized training, and regularly checked employee progress.
Beyond leadership support, holistic education is a gateway to keeping employees up-to-date on content that is relevant to their health system and specific industry challenges. Identifying the factors that can affect the supply chain’s ability to provide the necessary provisions can motivate employees to think about the bigger picture. Drug shortages, which have plagued hospitals nationwide as a result of a slew of natural disasters and manufacturing plant issues, are a good example. An effective education plan can address the shortages and the implications on both supply chain and the overall continuum of care. Supply chain professionals should be trained to anticipate and understand risks to better navigate issues and work in tandem with clinicians and care providers to offer the best possible alternative.
Leaders and stakeholders from various departments can help you build a comprehensive plan that provides insight and industry intelligence on what is required for the supply chain to lead cost, quality, and outcomes (CQO)-focused initiatives. For instance, participating in clinically integrated/cross-disciplinary training allows supply chain professionals to better understand the implications that their purchasing decisions have on patient outcomes. Supply chain can then glean correlations between supplies and clinical outcomes by working with clinicians as well as quality and infection control personnel. The combined expertise of the clinical stakeholders and supply chain professionals can make all the difference in pushing the supply chain’s capabilities forward and helping the organization achieve its overarching goals.
Acurity recently provided education to all levels of a member’s supply chain team—including buyers, sourcing personnel, contractors, and data analytics professionals—about industry standards and sharing how other hospital supply chains were aligning supply chain and value-based care. The academic medical center had three goals: heighten employee understanding of the Institute for Healthcare Improvements’ Triple Aim, examine the current healthcare reform landscape, and explore the impact of the three CMS performance-based programs (value-based purchasing, hospital-acquired conditions, and readmission reduction) on hospitals and the supply chain. During the sessions, participants were given metrics specific to their hospital to guide a conversation about where they stand today and improvements that could be made with regard to CMS performance-based programs. Discussions about the organization’s supply chain pipeline (such as contract work plan, etc.) were also incorporated, which tied in contracting strategies and value analysis as they relate to CQO principles. Emphasizing the need for supply chains to remain adaptable, participants left with an enhanced understanding of their role vis-à-vis the bigger picture and a renewed focus on how their purchasing decisions affect both patient experience and their organization’s bottom line.
In order for supply chain professionals to truly evolve, a concentrated effort must be made to garner insight from all areas of the health system. While supply chain professionals can use their expertise to select products and services that ease the financial strain on their hospitals, it is the collective effort of many departments communicating and collaborating that will drive the necessary changes to make a meaningful contribution to their hospitals’ value-based goals.
If you need help training your employees, Acurity stands ready and able to assist. Our subject matter experts recently presented case studies about education programs at both the Premier Breakthroughs Conference in Nashville and the AHRMM Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. We have developed a Supply Chain Education Checklist to inform our members about how to start and maintain an education program. It includes tips for obtaining leadership buy-in, creating content, assessing program effectiveness, and more. Members can access this document through the Acurity Member Portal.
If you are not an Acurity member but are interested in becoming one, please contact us.