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Jaimy Lee Modern Healthcare

Reporter's Notebook: Global view emerges at AHRMM

By Jaimy Lee
Posted: August 10, 2012 - 1:15 pm ET

It shouldn't be a surprise that attendees at this year's Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management conference had quite a bit to say about reducing supply costs. They discussed how global standards can cut down on labor costs, whether purchasing directly from a manufacturer can produce a greater return on investment than using a distributor, and the role and education of physicians in supporting supply cost-cutting initiatives.

The 50th annual conference was held this week in San Antonio. More than 1,000 people attended, a slightly lower turnout than last year's record year of about 1,100 attendees, an AHRMM spokeswoman said.

During the general session panel discussion Tuesday, three physician executives talked about their roles within the supply chain.

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Dr. Sean Lyden, a vascular surgeon who serves as medical director of clinical supply chain management at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, brings employed and private physicians “to the table” to address supply costs.

One of the biggest challenges, Lyden said, has been making physicians aware of supply costs, which was one reason why the health system conducted an internal campaign to educate clinicians as it sought to reduce the costs associated with physician preference items and other supplies.

Another challenge, he joked, was deciding whether to pull products that had been developed by Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Delos Cosgrove, who has filed about 30 patents for medical and clinical products.

At the same session, Ed Hisscock, president of the Optime Group, presented findings from a study looking at physicians' views on supply chain. The study reported that half of the 60 cardiothoracic surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, and interventionalists it surveyed described their relationship with materials management and supply chain as “collaborative,” while about 20% of the physicians described it as “mutual suspicion.”

At another session, executives at Denver Health touted the system's use of global location numbers and its plans to prepare for the upcoming unique device identification system. The Food and Drug Administration recently issued the proposed rule for the UDI system. While providers aren't required to participate in the system, the FDA and other hospital groups say there are benefits to using the system.

“There's no more time to delay,” said Philip Pettigrew, director of materials management at Denver Health in Colorado.

However, he noted that implementing UDI can be difficult because it's an issue that hospital executives don't push. It's also an issue that requires input from a wide-ranging group of stakeholders, including information technology and patient-safety executives.

“The way to sell is patient safety,” said Stewart Layhe, Denver Health's supply chain program manager.

During a session focused on the role of distributors in the supply chain, Marty Ferguson, manager of the health industries advisory at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said four factors that contribute to higher supply-chain costs are excess inventory, improper utilization, waste and lack of quality data.

Some geographically dense health systems, such as Intermountain Healthcare and UPMC, have turned to self-distribution in recent years as a way to cut costs.

Jaimy Lee reports on medical technology, medical suppliers, group purchasing organizations and healthcare news in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

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