As fiscally-strapped healthcare organizations streamline processes, surgical staff who are familiar with specialty surgical instruments are less frequently involved in purchasing, leaving these tasks to supply chain and materials management staff.
Leading healthcare organizations recognize that smart surgical instrument purchasing can bring great relief to tight budgets yet the instrument industry does little to clarify the procurement process. The challenges most frequently faced are outlined below, along with 9 tips for clearing the fog.
Increasing Requests - And Request for Instruments Never before Purchased
Hospital systems are quickly acquiring clinics, ASCs, and specialty practices, such as OBGYN, podiatry, ENT, and dermatological offices. Supply chain and materials management staff are now responsible for the procurement of specialty instruments for an increasing number of off-site locations, for specialties with which they are less familiar, and from vendors with which they have never done business.
In smaller facilities, a nurse whose primary role is patient care often takes on a procurement role. Many lack instrument knowledge and resources, have little time to source and compare costs, and spend too much time playing phone and email tag with vendors. Sourcing instruments for an increasing number of surgeons often means reliance on a GPO or other contracted method that fails to offer discounts on specialty surgical instruments.
Specialty Surgical Instruments Are Difficult to Compare
Surgical instruments are increasingly complex, especially in specialty areas like ophthalmology, ENT, orthopedics, spine, and laparoscopic surgery. Expanding facilities are performing higher volumes of surgery with more surgeons in each specialty, each with their own pattern and vendor preference. It is almost impossible to simultaneously source quality instruments, satisfy surgeons’ requests, and lower cost.
30% of the Surgical Instruments Required by a Hospital Network Don’t Have to Come Through Contracted Sources
Robert Edelstein, President of Millennium Surgical Corp., has spent the last 23 years working with nurses and procurement staff, helping them locate and compare surgical instruments. “About 30% of the surgical instruments required by a hospital network don’t need to come through contracted sources,” says Edelstein. “Most often, they are paying list price for these instruments when they don’t have to. We hear time and again from new customers that they could have been saving thousands of dollars a year if they’d managed their purchases more effectively.”
The Instrument Industry is Confusing
Cost-effective purchasing, however, often comes at the mercy of time and frustration. With hundreds of surgical instrument distributors in the U.S., keeping track of brands, ownership, suppliers, sales reps, and product lines is nearly impossible. To cut through the fog, many surgical facilities rely on a GPO (Group Purchasing Organization)
Why GPOs Aren’t the Answer for Specialty Instrument Procurement
GPOs are great at helping facilities reduce costs on commodity-type products of consistent quality. When it comes to surgical instruments, they often only focus on top sellers and general instruments. Manufacturers and vendors compete exclusively on price, forcing the supplier to source the least expensive products they can. While GPO’s have been successful in driving down the cost of basic instruments, quality has been impacted but there has been little impact on the cost of specialty instruments.
GPOs also don’t discount most specialty instruments. Large vendors who do only offer a limited line, meaning that most must be sourced through small specialty companies. And GPOs lack the experience and expertise in these specialized fields to accurately coordinate pricing.
9 Tips for Comparing and Reducing Cost While Maintaining Surgeon Satisfaction
1. Focus your cost comparison and evaluation on higher cost items, which have the most impact on your surgeon’s satisfaction and your budget. Millennium Surgical Corp.’s Instrument Specialists have the resources to do this quickly, effectively, and in a way that is easy to understand.
2. Give your vendors as much information as you can to identify the instruments you need. Use catalog or reference part numbers when you can. When you can’t, provide photos and measurements along with your description. Millennium Surgical offers the Instrument Guru service which will help you identify rare instruments with worn part numbers.
3. If a surgeon requests an instrument from a specific vendor, ask why they were specific. Surgeons often ask for catalog numbers or vendors as a habit. Ask if lower cost equivalents can be considered. (Millennium Surgical’s instruments can be evaluated in surgery and returned with our 30 day no-risk guarantee.)
4. Work with a vendor who has your interest, and that of your patients, at the top of their priority list. “I founded Millennium Surgical Corp. on the principle that instrument procurement shouldn’t be hard. I believe that busy nurses and instrument technicians should stay focused on patient care, and that they deserve an easy way to locate and compare instruments,”
5. Work with a company that is constantly expanding and improving upon its product offerings. “We talk to our customers to find out where their pain is so that we can constantly serve them better. We know the increasing challenges they face,” says Edelstein. “Your vendor should always strive to do better.”
6. Be fully aware of return policies. “Not all vendors will let you evaluate an instrument in surgery, some will not accept an instrument for return if the package was opened” says Edelstein.
7. Compare cost.
8. Verify surgeon satisfaction with the instruments.
9. Update your records to reflect the instrument purchased.
Millennium Surgical Corp.’s Instrument Specialists provide one-on-one support backed by an extensive product database with product details, costs, and catalog numbers from most instruments and suppliers. They respond to quote requests often the same day, with no false promises. They match instruments to your demands and only provide a quote for those that meet your specifications, satisfying more than 99% of the surgeons they supply. And a no-risk surgeon satisfaction guarantee is in place with no restocking charges. Instrument Specialists are available 10 hours a day, five days a week, with no complicated phone menus to navigate. Ask your Instrument Specialist about solutions for Supply Chain and Materials Management Departments.