For some ASCs, vendor relationships improved during the pandemic through representative communication and provision of alternatives to shortages. For others, factors like infrequent vendor availability have made supply acquisition more difficult.
Here are six ASC administrator's different views on how vendor relationships have shifted:
Note: These answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Question: Is it easier or harder to work with supply and implant vendors than before the pandemic? Why?
Georgia Kapshuck. Administrator at Carolina Bone & Joint Surgery Center (Myrtle Beach, S.C.): It is actually easier to work with vendors and representatives after the pandemic. The representatives from the companies that we deal with have gone above and beyond to get us what we need. They also give us other options to use in place of our regular items just so we can continue with surgeries. Representatives are always keeping us in mind as soon as they get the items we need and offering them to us as soon as possible.
Andi Coniglio, RN. Administrator at Summit Surgery Center at Saint Mary's Galena (Reno, Nev.): It's harder to work with supply and implant vendors after the pandemic. Some vendors are not easily available or working from home. Additionally, items are hard to get, especially personal protective equipment.
Heather Bowers. Materials Manager of the Surgery Center of Pottsville (Pa.): I have found that vendors have gone above and beyond to find alternatives to the shortages we face. Also, vendors alert their customers more often when hard-to-find items become available. They have definitely been easier to work with.
Mimi Bercan. Materials Management Coordinator of the Surgery Center of Southwest General (Middleburg Heights, Ohio): It's harder to work with vendors during the pandemic. Because many vendors are working out of their homes, we've been put on hold a lot longer, connections have been bad and sometimes dogs are barking. I have started to fax orders over rather than wait on hold. I have had to call vendor representatives for implants just about every week since stock is short.
Becky Ziegler-Otis Administrator of the Ambulatory Surgical Center of Stevens Point (Wis.): I would say it is harder to work with the vendors, but not because the vendors are being difficult, but rather due to the limitations being placed on them from the manufacturers. Our materials manager has always had an excellent rapport and relationship with our supply and implant vendors. This has always been beneficial to the center, and the pandemic further solidified these relationships. There are constant communications between the materials manager and the vendors on shortages, costs and alternatives to pursue.
Christopher McClellan, DO. Administrator of University Orthopedics Center (Altoona, Pa.): In my region, working with vendors has been about the same during the pandemic. They've always been great to work with. I would encourage most places to get away from group purchasing plans and deal directly with companies yourselves.