15 key ASC supply chain management tips

Here are 15 ASC supply chain tips to know:

1. Utilize GPOs

GPOs can be an essential supply chain asset for ASCs, said Ann Geier, CNO of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Surgical Information Systems:

"GPOs can help ASCs achieve purchasing savings and efficiencies because they aggregate purchasing volume and then use this leverage to negotiate pricing discounts."

2. Lean on your distributor

Distributors can be key in ASCs achieving supply chain success, said Chris Childers, Cardinal Health's national sales director of strategic accounts.

"ASCs or surgical hospitals should expect their distributor to be able to help them achieve operational excellence through in-depth assessments of their supply chain and clinical operations. At Cardinal Health, these assessments help customers improve first-time fill rates, remove excess or expired inventory and find solutions to the space constraints in ambulatory facilities."

3. Create item packs

Combining supplies can make them easier to manage, according to Mandie Shipp, RN, BSN, senior consultant in clinical operations at Cardinal Health.

“Identify and combine all supplies needed into a single pack — from OR setup to cleanup. Include single sterile items that you might otherwise take from the storeroom during a procedure.”

4. Know risk areas in inventory management

The shift to value-based care poses both risks and new opportunities for ASCs in inventory management, according to Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems' Ruben Taborda, senior director of supply chain customer solutions.

"As the shift to value-based care continues, there is an increased focus on value, from clinical outcomes and experience throughout the patient journey pre- and post surgery, to efficient supply management. These elements are even more important in the context of outpatient surgery. A key opportunity related to inventory management is vulnerability in inventory and supply-ordering protocols, specifically an aversion to investments in advanced [enterprise resource planning] systems and a reliance on one central staff member for inventory and supply orders.

5. Use data to cut waste

ASCs can use technology to improve supply chain operations, according to Garry Cooper, PhD, CEO and co-founder of asset management company Rheaply.

"From a resource procurement perspective, manufacturers have to know what they have and what's needed at all times, [as well as] when it's going to expire, and then use that information to be able to make informed decisions about purchasing equipment or exchanging surplus equipment."

6. Focus on case-costing

Case-costing can give ASCs a deeper insight into their supply chain operations, according to Ann Castro, vice president of non-acute sales for healthcare expense management company BroadJump.

"It's easier for a single-specialty to know exactly where [its] case-costing is. If you're not watching your preference cards or case-costing, you really could be losing revenue. If your costs outweigh what's being reimbursed, that's not an ideal way to increase your revenue. Focusing on what encompasses that procedure — and the implant is going to be the biggest part — would be the first area to focus on."

7. Manage physician preference items

Some items are "must-haves" because they make physicians' jobs easier, according to Beverly Bryant, RN, administrator and director of Yuma (Ariz.) Endoscopy Center.

"My physicians are tried and true and have decades of experience. They know what they want, and I explain to all representatives that if you want my doctors to want your product, you will have to appeal to their preferences," she said. "My physicians feel that certain items are worth the increased cost because it improves ease of their job, and in turn, maintains patient safety."

8. Don't hoard

ASCs should order supplies based on need, according to Stephanie Martin, vice president of clinical operations for ASC manager Regent Surgical Health:

"Ordering supplies based on usage during a certain amount of time is more efficient than the traditional practice of ordering to fill capacity or hoarding supplies 'just in case.' ASCs should seek out and eliminate hidden costs within clinical processes, which may have become standardized over time. Careful evaluation can save thousands of dollars being spent inefficiently."

9. Make supply chain education fun

Educating ASC staff on supply chain best practices can be fun, according to Quorum Purchasing Advantage Vice President Tony Bramer.

"The first thing I encourage ASC supply people to do is to help the physicians understand [the cost of products] by either putting up information in the physicians' lounge or other areas where physicians tend to wait — to help them understand the actual costs of the choices they're making," Mr. Bramer said. "That can be done by a little display table. I've seen some people do it through various games and contests [like], 'Guess which item's more expensive.'"

10. Collaborate with physicians to standardize products

ASCs can be more efficient when considering alternative supply sources, according to John Kupice, CEO of supply chain company H-Source:

"Alternate sourcing can reap big savings and eliminate waste by allowing for variable quantity purchases, [such as when a practice] needs two instead of a box of six," he said. "Technology can help evaluate what's being used and why, as well as helping to standardize and reduce. Collaborating with physicians to standardize products and procedures is always a big benefit."

11. Utilize your EMR

ASCs can improve supply chain operations through using their EMR system, according to executive director of Langhorne, Pa.-based The Ambulatory Surgery Center at St. Mary's, Ashley Verbitsky.

"Working through EMR reporting and analytics provides accurate case-costing. Incentivizing staff through profit-sharing to minimizes supply costs. Leverage GPO pricing as needed for favorable agreements."

12. Control vendor access to physicians

ASCs should prevent vendors from pushing products on physicians by implementing restrictions, according to Quorum Purchasing Advantage Vice President Tony Bramer.

"Just like in a hospital, strongly control access to physicians by outside vendors. We recommend [making] it a win-win for physicians. In many cases, they really don't want to be interrupted by vendors," he said.

13. Customize your approach

ASC supply chain management requires a tailored approach, according to Navigant Consulting director Rob Austin and consultant Joe Pesek.

"A common mistake health systems make, particularly as they emphasize centralization of core nonclinical business functions, is they try to run the supply chain for their ASCs as if the centers are just another acute care facility," Mr. Austin and Mr. Pesek said.

14. Don't waste supplies

Healthcare supply company WestCMR listed the ways ASCs can turn surgical waste into profits, according to the company's CEO Randy Ware:

"Surplus surgical supplies that sit unused in supply closets are a balance sheet nightmare for many hospitals and surgery centers. Landfills are no place for usable 'expensive' overstock medical supplies. Liquidate responsibly, and sell unwanted, in-date inventory."

15. Use supply chain consignment

Taking advantage of consignment can help ASCs save supply chain costs, Medline reported in its Outpatient Outcomes magazine.

"Consignment ordering is flexible. ASCs can stock supplies for everyday use, as well as for emergency cases, which allow for cost savings as the center is billed only for what is used. Through using consignment, inventory management is handled by the supplier rather than the ASC, saving staff time."

To submit an ASC supply chain tip for consideration, please email Rachel Popa at rpopa@beckershealthcare.com.

More articles on supply chain:
'Don't re-invent the wheel': A message for ASC supply chain leaders
Ospitek releases new ASC software
3 ways to ensure smooth adoption of new ASC technology

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