Supply chain management in healthcare has evolved from straightforward purchasing into a profession where cost, quality, and safety intersect to form a complicated framework of responsibilities. As the healthcare industry has grown, so too has the area of responsibility for the supply chain manager.

Safety management in the supply chain may be the area that has most evolved.  Supply chain managers who have overlooked putting a process in place to effectively check vendors and their products for safety and security are not only are putting their jobs on the line, they are risking the reputation and financial security of the entire organization they work for.

Supply chain management encompasses cost-containment, quality, and patient safety; all can be achieved with comprehensive vendor credentialing.

Most supply chain managers would agree they are responsible for all vendor relationships and  oversight of  representatives that make in-person visits to see staff and work on systems is a major aspect of their responsibilities. There was a time when a vendor would simply ā€˜drop-inā€™ to talk about a new drug or the latest product, but for the majority of facilities, those times are gone for good reason.

Why supply chain managers are more involved with vendor representative management than ever before

More emphasis on privacy

Technology has made communication within a hospital or health system much easier, but it also brings increased responsibility to protect all information within the organization.  Access to a single computer could potentially provide admission to an entire healthcare organization.  This was not the case years ago with paper records and before HIPAA laws. 

Security of facilities

Over time, hospitals have grown increasingly liable for the safety of their patients, staff, and visitors.  In the recent past, it was not uncommon for vendors to literally wander the halls of a facility.  Now, it is essential to know who is in the hospital at any given time to mitigate the risk of theft, unauthorized physical access, violence, and events such as terrorist attacks.  Unfortunately, the worst can happen, and rigorous supply management standards can be a critical line of defense.

Infection risk mitigation

Many facilities begin implementing a comprehensive supply chain management solution only after a person has been identified with a disease that puts other patients and staff at risk for infection.  Establishing a secure protocol for vendor access can provide evidence that an organization was making every effort to protect its population from disease.

Increased control over the supply chain

When vendors need to be credentialed in order to have access, supply chain managers have more control over the products that are coming into their facilities.  They can ensure supplies have been sourced from safe, reliable vendors.  Additionally, control over the supply chain helps reduce costs, allowing financial resources to be allocated to other important aspects of patient care.  (And of course the credit for those additional resources can be given to the smart supply manager that instituted the compliant program.)

Liability cost containment

Increasing numbers of supply-chain managers are part of the team focused on improving quality of care while containing costs.  On one level, the focus on cost-containment comes from the shifting reimbursement environment.  With every passing year, hospitalsā€™ reimbursement becomes more dependent on patient outcomes, which has increased awareness of treatment cost as a way to mitigate risk.  That can directly translate into the purchase price of a product, which of course falls under the supply-chain managerā€™s responsibility.

However, there is another level of cost-containment that directly relates to the supply chain and has nothing to do with purchase price:  it involves the risks and liability associated with an unstructured and unsecured vendor process.  For many organizations, the financial consequences for non-compliance are just too high (up to $10,000 per item purchased), and the possible repercussions to an organizationā€™s reputation could impede the publicā€™s perception for years to come.  A tarnished reputation not only affects a hospital, it can affect the reputation of staff as well when they are later identified as having worked for an employer with lax standards.     

How are healthcare facilities adapting to ensure compliance?

A robust vendor credentialing program, either by the healthcare organization itself or outsourced to a third party, is the best defense when it comes to protecting your organization from the financial and legal consequences that could arise from vendor visits.   

Because credentialing can be an arduous process for both the healthcare system and the vendor, an increasing number of hospitals are turning to third parties like symplrĀ®. 

What to look for in a vendor credentialing partner

  • The ability to accommodate the unique needs of your organization: each hospital and healthcare system is distinct, and the partner you choose should be able to adapt to your unique situation, such as deeper background checks concerning child-endangerment for a childrenā€™s hospital or a wider array of immunizations for a critical illness facility.
  • Ease of use: the credentialing process should be straight-forward for vendors and hospital staff alike.
  • Technology: automated and secure check-in at kiosks make it possible for every access point of a facility to be covered while increasing convenience for vendors. Also, look for real-time dashboards that track who is in your facility and can produce documentation for governing entities like the Joint Commission, if necessary. 

Want to learn more about how symplr can make vendor credentialing one of the simplest parts of your day?  Get in touch with our team of credentialing experts. 

"We want our staff looking at peopleā€™s faces, not their day passes, and taking the initiative if they donā€™t recognize them. We need them to know that our staff is paying attention and we want to eliminate the delays and hassles that can be associated with printing badges.ā€

- Chip Geiger, purchasing manager, Mercyhealth

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