Benefis Health Overcame Spotty Vendor Credentialing and Curbed Rising Costs
Benefis Health System, located
in Great Falls, Montana
VENDOR COMPANIES: 214
REPS CREDENTIALED: 409
ANNUAL REP CHECK-INS: 2,795
BUILDING: Five campuses are spread over a large rural service area. The system maintains one medical supply warehouse.
For years, Benefis Health System used a manual, paper-based system for vendor credentialing, but the problems with this approach were adding up. The staff lacked visibility into its universe of vendors, which resulted in unauthorized purchases and higher medical product costs. In addition, the Montana health system’s background checks were inconsistent and unreliable, creating compliance adherence concerns.
By adopting symplr’s vendor credentialing system, Benefis gained a consistent and efficient vendor credentialing solution while reducing its administrative burden. The organization also gained greater visibility into reps and their services, making it easier to stay on budget for medical supply spending.
- The system was unable to conduct audits due to its paper-based vendor credentialing system, which meant that its policies and procedures were only loosely enforced.
- There was little to no visibility or control over vendor access. The system had no easy way to know which vendors' products and/or services were approved.
- The system continually overspent its budget—by significant amounts—due to unauthorized purchases.
- The staff regularly spent hours performing incomplete and inconsistent vendor checks.
SOLUTIONsymplr Access Vendor Credentialing
- Using symplr, Benefis achieved an automated and consistent vendor credentialing and compliance system.
- Its staff gained enforceable access controls and complete visibility into the system's universe of vendors. This enabled better insights into the products and services each vendor offered.
- The system achieved increased control over medical supply spending and thus was able to adhere to budgets.
- Benefis staff shaved hours off the administrative processing previously spent on manually credentialing and approving vendors.
Benefis curbed rising medical costs using symplr Vendor Credentialing
For years, Benefis Health System used a homegrown vendor credentialing system that consisted of a paper file at the main registration desk. Bryan Buckridge, director of supply chain management, said he or a member of his staff performed new vendor background checks—a time-consuming task that often lead to incomplete and unreliable background checks and and verifications. Vendors who did meet facility requirements received a material services badge. However, each department had its own process for checking to see whether each admitted rep was wearing the badge, contributing to loosely enforced protocols across departments.
As part of a cost-saving measure to better control medical supply costs, Benefis leaders determined that the system needed a vendor credentialing system that would introduce automated and consistent credentialing of new vendors and provide enforceable access controls for its three campuses, serving a very large rural area.
“We couldn't control costs because we didn't know who was here,” Buckridge saids. “We had ten-plus reps a day coming in, averaging about 50 a week. In the past, we have had problems with reps from big pharmaceutical firms going straight to the pharmacy without being credentialed, and it gets to be a huge problem. We had an issue with invoices being submitted without coming through our purchasing committee so we were not getting reimbursed for some products,” he said.
Affordable, simple-to-use system top requirements
Buckridge and his team evaluated six vendor credentialing systems. “We wanted a solution that was competitively priced that wouldn’t put vendors off,” Buckridge said. “We learned some [vendors] charged by the company a rep worked for, which meant if some reps sold for six different companies, they would have to pay six times to come and see us.”
That was an unacceptable burden to impose on vendors. “We like the relationships we have with people coming from Seattle, Salt Lake, and Denver, so we started to look for a more equitable solution,” he said.
The symplr solution
Benefis chose symplr’s vendor credentialing system because it carries no cost to the healthcare
system, doesn't over-charge vendors for each line of products they carry, and it is simple to
install and use.
Benefis now maintains five symplr kiosks that allow vendors to check-in and scan their badge in the adjacent areas. The kisoks prints out a badge sticker that displays where the rep is going. With a click of a button, Benefis’ staff can quickly see the compliance status of a visiting vendor through a simple red light/green light indicator. In addition, the symplr system gives Benefis administrative flexibility when needed to perform a one-time or permanent override or exclusion, which is recorded in the audit logs for maximum visibility and transparency.
“It was an extremely smooth transition, and our symplr team helped us every step of the way,”
Buckridge said, adding that very minimal training was needed for onboarding. Benefis gave vendors
a 30-day grace period to get credentials and then strictly enforced its policies. “We had pushback from vendors at first since we weren’t allowing anyone in if they didn’t have credentials,”
Process standardization: A critical first step
With symplr’s system, Benefis knows every vendor has had the same background check and is
compliant with system policies. Becasue symplr performs the background checks, Benefis staff knows they are thorough and Buckridge and his team have recouped valuable time to spend on facility business.
More importantly, symplr’s system helps Benefis keep medical supply costs within its budgetary
constraints. “We know what vendor has been in and talking to whom, which allows us to look very
closely at our contracts to make sure we don’t add an SKU,” Buckridge said. “It’s also reduced our duplicate SKUs.”
Benefis now plans to add a sixth symplr kiosk at its cancer center. “Cancer drugs are very
expensive and we need to watch those costs closely.” Buckridge said.
Consistent education keeps costs low
Now that symplr Access is in place, employees and physicians at Benefis better understand credentialing, purchasing processes, and the role vendors play. Buckridge’s team explains the process
to new employees and regularly reminds existing staff of vendor policies.
“I don’t think everyone remembers the process, so I recently briefed our medial office clinics.” Re-educating the staff paid off immediately. “Just the other day I received a call from an office about a vendor who wanted to serve lunch, but didn’t have credentials,” Buckridge says. “I had one vendor come in and tell a new manager that the previous manager had approved a purchase so all he had to do was sign for it,” Buckridge says. “When the vendor profile was reviewed in symplr, we found out he wasn’t credentialed. We caught him with his hands in the cookie jar.”
Superior customer service minimizes headaches
Buckridge said that on the rare occasion there's an issue with symplr’s equipment, the dedicated facility support team responds rapidly. “symplr is outstanding and very responsive,” he says. “It’s very rare, but when we do need assistance, they get back to us immediately.”
Buckridge uses the symplr vendor credentialing system to create his annual compliance report, giving him confidence his numbers are correct and that spending remains on target. “It’s just a great solution,” he said.