Nine of the largest hospital group purchasing organizations have signed on to a voluntary ethics initiative in an effort to head off the anticipated reintroduction of proposed federal legislation to strictly regulate the industry. A key element of the Healthcare Group Purchasing Industry Initiative is the establishment of an annual public-reporting process for the participants as an industry, said Kirk Hanson, an ethicist acting as the initiative's interim coordinator. Information regarding individual GPOs will be blinded in public reports, Hanson said. Participating organizations also plan to hold an annual forum to discuss industry practices with government officials and hire a permanent coordinator for the initiative. Hanson was contracted by Premier, one of the initiative's four founding GPOs, several years ago to evaluate its business ethics.
The initiative was modeled in part after the Defense Industry Initiative on Business Ethics and Conduct, created in 1986 following criticism of defense company procurement practices, Hanson said. A formal announcement regarding the GPO initiative likely will be made in a month, he said. In a statement, Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of a Senate subcommittee monitoring the GPO industry, said they would study the proposal carefully to see if it addresses their objectives. Premier, Consorta, GNYHA Ventures and Healthtrust Purchasing Group launched the initiative six months ago, shortly after the subcommittee said it would introduce legislation unless the industry came up with an alternative with "teeth," Hanson said. Amerinet, Broadlane, Child Health Corp. of America, MedAssets and Novation have agreed to participate in the initiative. -- by Cinda Becker