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Sophie Rutherford

Major Accounts Executive, GHX
Friday, February 08, 2019

Integrating Academic and Non-Acute Supply Chain

Expanding on the thoughts from my earlier post, Healthcare Supply Chain in 2019: A Look Forward, I want to take a deeper dive into the three areas that were top of mind, starting with the integration of non-acute and academic supply chain.

As more and more organizations in both the academic and acute care sectors are realizing the broad value that supply chain can deliver, there is a movement to integrate (consolidate and standardize) the core mechanisms of sourcing, procurement, supplier and contract lifecycle. The procurement of goods and services through an efficient and effective supply chain will become increasingly vital to ensure that higher-education institutions have governance related to the effective appropriation of funds.

These factors are being highlighted by the fact that many academic organizations (especially where there may be reporting lines directly to the board) now identify supply chain as a driver to ensure compliance with policies and to demonstrate value for investments.

Below are considerations when developing an integration strategy for the workflows of academic and medical center procurement to payment automation.

Align data

The data across the two workflows can be parallel in some areas related to med-surg commodity, specialized products, and services. The major obstacle would seem to be outliers specific to research. However, there are potential commonalities that can align the data in such a way that opportunities can present from a contracting and sourcing perspective. Alignment of manufacturers and vendors for sourcing will provide the largest opportunity to standardize for acquisition and delivery and provide leverage for price negotiation.

The primary factor for this initiative is to have a platform to collect, cleanse, attribute and present the data providing a roadmap to opportunities. It’s this visibility that enables you to standardize commodities, align contracting to sourcing requirements and have a maintenance strategy in place for ongoing optimization. 

Provide structure to buyers

Variability related to the different “buyers” from academic to medical will result in diverse approaches to workflow, primarily in the method by which the buyers view, select, and acquire their purchases. On the academic side of procurement, there is traditionally little rigor or governance for item selection based on contractual agreements, formulary or inventory measures. If an item is needed for research it is purchased with little regard to cost, quality or outcome. The outcomes are usually measured in clinical trials or studies. Providing buyers with a path to the most efficient, effective and valuable options—a formulary based on conformity—will lead to purchasing decisions that will satisfy financial governance and fulfill grant requirements for academic requirements. This approach supports a path to achieving long-term goals for fiscal and operational performance, while also ensuring external auditor findings are reduced.

Communicate, communicate and communicate

Scale and scope are important considerations due to the long list of contributors to the contracting, purchasing and consumption activities. Alignment of these activities is critical to the success of an integration strategy. Considering this somewhat disconnected group of participants, socialization of the strategy across the organization will be a key component to acceptance and ultimate success. Awareness and inclusion are the best contributors to establishing a newly aligned strategy for the integrated sourcing and procurement stage.

Awareness of supply chain to enable better spend management for the academic and non-acute care sectors is only going to continue to grow. Standardizing data and integrating key components from sourcing, procurement and contracting will ensure opportunities for savings and efficiency. However, with an initiative of this scale, choosing the right technology partner will play a critical role in success. In the next post, I’ll take a look at the considerations for choosing the right partner. Meanwhile, please reach out to me with questions or thoughts.