The increasingly sophisticated hospital supply chain has been one factor leading medical-device makers to move forward with billion-dollar deals as they seek to become one-stop shops for hospitals.
With insurers' payment rates declining and fewer inpatient admissions, providers have been under pressure to lower the costs of supplies and services. So they have standardized products, contracted directly with manufacturers and developed more efficient medical utilization patterns. But more opportunities remain to cut costs. “There is still a lot of low-hanging fruit,” said Brent Johnson, chief purchasing officer at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City.
Experts say hospitals and manufacturers will continue to develop new types of partnerships. Start-up companies that have struggled to gain ground in a traditionally slow-to-change sector will be more successful as hospitals become more willing to invest in new types of supply chain technologies and services, Broome said.
Hospital supply chains are becoming more willing to invest in workflow management or product tracking technologies, which could create opportunities for companies developing innovative services and tools.
With hospitals pushing back against suppliers' prices, manufacturers have seen smaller margins, so they're looking to partner with hospitals through mechanisms such as financial risk-sharing deals in which devicemakers take on performance-based risk for their products. Some hospitals are hiring their own operating room technical assistance staff rather than relying on manufacturer's reps, building their supply-chain teams, and adding data and analytics services. Also, some of the largest hospital suppliers began to merge in 2014.