Surprise! Physicians Want a Better Relationship With Supply Chain

physician-supply chain collaboration

Not only are physicians interested in dialoging with supply chain, but they’re also the patient advocates best equipped to address the “quality” and “outcomes” portions of the CQO equation.

I regularly work one-on-one with physicians across 22 specialties and, since I work for a group purchasing organization (GPO), the first order of business is to be sure they understand how medical devices are chosen and ultimately delivered to the operating room. Physicians are trained to improve the health of patients—not to be experts in finance, sourcing and how contracting decisions are made—so they need and appreciate a little “Supply Chain 101” when they sign on as a HealthTrust physician advisor. When I initially speak with the physicians, most of them have just learned they’re a HealthTrust member (via their IDN) or that they can have a voice in our national contracting process. Many of them are also only beginning to appreciate the multiple rewards they can reap by regularly interacting with supply chain at the local level.

Supply chain professionals at the average hospital oversee the purchase of more than 300,000 items from over 2,000 different suppliers in any given year. So the physician “curriculum” on the topic needs to be broad but basic, touching on:

  • HealthTrust’s member-comprised clinical advisory boards (cardiovascular, laboratory, nursing, radiology, surgery and pharmacy) that govern GPO contracting decisions and vote on behalf of the overall membership
  • National GPO agreements for commodities, food, capital equipment, pharmacy, human resources and information technology
  • The lifecycle of individual contracts and how they’re managed
  • Custom contracting opportunities in the physician preference area that result in improved value from contracted suppliers

I also like to highlight the importance of physician-supply chain collaboration on cost and reimbursement issues, and creating processes that are in the best interests of both patients and the facility. This may entail developing criteria and patient-centered best practices that utilize costly innovations, but in an appropriate way.

Thankfully, a recent survey conducted by HealthTrust indicates that the one relationship physicians would most like to improve is the one they have with supply chain. So maybe the big miss here is that doctors need to be invited to the table more often to be heard—and physician-supply chain collaboration should be a priority. While the physicians role is not to estimate the price of medical devices or negotiate contracts, they know a lot about the other two-thirds of the CQO equation—quality and outcomes—that matter more in a value-based healthcare world.


Author Information

Sarah Wooten

Sarah Wooten

Sarah Wooten manages the HealthTrust Physician Advisors Program, which engages physicians in initiatives to improve utilization of physician preference items. She also manages related strategic alliances with physicians, hospital executive staff, medical staff and clinical department directors, and develops relationships within HealthTrust to help integrate physician expertise into GPO and supply chain operations. Wooten previously managed business development and marketing efforts for HealthTrust’s medical device sourcing team. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing management. More Articles by This Author »

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