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Adopting a clinically integrated approach to supply chain management | Viewpoint


By involving clinicians at the beginning of the process, health systems can potentially improve patient care and reduce costs.

Dee Donatelli, senior director of spend management at symplr (Photo provided by symplr)

Dee Donatelli, senior director of spend management at symplr (Photo provided by symplr)

As health systems seek new approaches to improve their bottom line, one promising avenue for significant cost savings is the integration of clinical systems and insights into supply chain management.

Value-based and consumer-centric care accelerated the need for clinical integration, which is now widely accepted as the gold standard for outcomes-focused health systems. As a result, strategic clinical investment has never been more critical.

By involving clinicians at the beginning of the supply chain management process, health systems can better align the administrative and clinical functions that combine to achieve spend management and patient outcomes goals.

Building blocks for clinical integration and maturation

A clinically integrated supply chain promotes interdisciplinary partnerships, both internal and external to the healthcare organization. It supports a focus on delivering high-quality care while achieving the best outcomes at the lowest cost and with minimal waste.

In a clinically integrated supply chain, key stakeholders including physicians and other clinicians, administrators, supply chain executives, patients, and suppliers are directly or indirectly involved in decisions throughout the process. Stakeholder representation begins with sourcing and contracting and extends all the way through utilization and tracking of clinical and financial outcomes.

Data-driven decisions are foundational to a mature integrated supply chain. A health system’s own clinical, cost, and outcomes data become part of a value-driven decision-making process. The ability to link line-item purchase data to patient-specific outcomes is paramount.

In a clinically integrated supply chain, there’s a link between specific products, patient outcomes, and the financial impact of product choices even after patients leave the hospital. For example, does the product cause complications or result in readmissions?

A clinically integrated supply chain also supports physician engagement. When physicians request a particular device or medical supply, supply chain leaders are equipped with data and evidence-backed insights they can use to spark conversations with physicians. This enables decision-makers to determine whether clinical literature supports the use of a particular product or whether there are other functionally similar, lower-cost options. Clinical evidence also reveals the effectiveness of a product, which has a direct impact on safety, patient satisfaction, readmission rates, and measurable improvements in care.

Importantly, clinical integration helps healthcare organizations calculate the total cost of care. Through a clinically integrated approach, supply chain leaders gain insight into cost, quality, and outcomes.

Deriving added value from technology

AI-powered technology that uses predictive analysis and business insight functionalities can help supply chain leaders more accurately predict future needs. For example, predictive modeling can alert to potential surges of a particular illness, such as COVID. The combination of predictive analytics with value analysis solutions equips supply chain leaders with insight to identify long-term needs, share information with key stakeholders, and address those needs with vendors.

More broadly, by using a centralized digital ecosystem to manage the entire process, decision-makers can immediately center their supply chain business units and clinical systems around agreed-upon financial and clinical objectives. That structure enables organizations to make data-driven decisions around purchasing, align key stakeholders in real time, and drive standardization. Collectively, these achievements combine to substantially improve the bottom line.

A continuous process

Building a clinically integrated supply chain is a continuous evolution for even the most mature health systems.

By integrating clinical insights into supply chain management strategy, hospital leaders can create cost savings without compromising patient care. The combination of human and technology-centered processes allows decision-makers to identify the most effective products, optimize their inventory levels, and reduce supply chain costs. This is essential for the long-term success of any healthcare organization and should be a top priority for hospital leaders.

About the author

Dee Donatelli is senior director of spend management at symplr, an enterprise healthcare operations software company.

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