Envi® is an innovative inventory management and procurement software by Inventory Optimization Solutions (IOS), a Provista company. The cloud-based offering maximizes efficiency across the healthcare supply chain. It’s user-friendly, cost-effective and delivers great analytics.
Incredible as it sounds in this age of technology, some healthcare facilities are still handling product ordering and inventory management using time-consuming manual processes. We’re talking logging onto dozens of supplier websites to view products, calling or faxing in orders, and using Excel spreadsheets instead of a centralized, unified procurement platform.
“It’s surprising how behind the times some non-acute facilities really are,” says Jeff Lawrence, vice president of Business Development for Inventory Optimization Solutions (IOS). “I’ve come across people still using typewriters—literally typewriters. This is very much an area where people have not adopted the technologies that are available.”
Implementing a modern procurement platform offers significant opportunities for healthcare facilities to save time and money through:
To reap these benefits, facilities must be willing to embrace technology and open up to new processes. “There are a lot of organizations that don’t want to change their ways,” Lawrence points out. “A lot of people are doing things the way they’ve been taught and don’t realize there are better ways.”
A procurement platform ensures compliance by allowing staff to only purchase items that have been reviewed, filtered and accepted for use by the organization. This simplifies ordering while letting all facilities buy at the same contracted price.
Both single and multi-location facilities benefit from centralized procurement. They gain greater visibility into spending, which leads to more informed decision making. Organizations with several facilities also ensure that each office is paying the same low price.
“When you look at multi-location organizations, they really need to see their spend. They don’t know what each facility is doing from a purchasing perspective,” Lawrence explains. “They don’t know if each location is purchasing the product from the right supplier at the right price. They don’t know what their inventory levels are and which items are expiring. Visibility is a huge value proposition.”
Increased visibility also leads to better control over spending behaviors. In addition, it helps ensure organizations are buying within their product formularies.
“Instead of looking at a website with a hundred products at different prices and you have to pick which one you want, you have a pre-approved, shortened list that says, ‘Here are the items you should be buying. We’ve already identified the vendor for you, we’ve identified the price and all you have to do is interact with the system to choose the products you want,’ ” Lawrence adds.
At many non-acute facilities, staff is working at full capacity. Automation can help free up time. When organizations work with a group purchasing organization (GPO) and implement a procurement platform, the time savings and benefits are even greater. That’s because automation and GPO pricing can be brought together in a single platform.
“With automation, facilities make sure they’re activating their contracted products and getting the most from the product pricing,” Lawrence notes. “Automation and GPO pricing make sure you’re buying at the right price and staying in a product formulary. You have a procurement platform that has your pricing managed within it. The full suite of services you get from a GPO also finds pricing discrepancies and credits so you don’t have track them down.”
As part of automation, facilities can save time with ordering and inventory management by using a barcode scanner. A procurement manager or other employee can walk through the inventory area and scan the items that need to be reordered, then an order is automatically created. The scanner can also track existing inventory.
“The big benefits of barcode scanners are to leverage order creation, usage tracking, and send orders to suppliers electronically,” Lawrence points out. “We found order processing time is reduced by about 50% using automation.
The right procurement platform adds intelligence, time management and inventory control to procurement processes across all facilities. This saves procurement managers time and frustration by providing insights into inventory and ordering, and help ensures the accuracy of orders.
A comprehensive procurement platform should offer scalability, flexibility and affordability. It should be able to handle growing data volumes and meet a facility’s specific needs. This gives organizations the ability to tailor usage based on internal processes. For example, a facility should be able to customize how pending orders are routed prior to transmission.
The right platform can also streamline purchasing and eliminate pain points in the supply chain, such as identifying fulfillment issues. Lawrence recommends implementing a platform that’s specifically designed for the healthcare industry.
“You should not be turning to a manufacturing system for healthcare,” he notes. “You should look at what your partners, like your suppliers, are using so you can easily connect and integrate with their platform. Same goes with your accounting and clinical systems. You want to make sure this is going to be a seamless addition to your existing technology and partner relationships.”
He also advises companies to only buy cloud-based technology. “It integrates easier, it’s easier to deploy, it’s lower cost, and it’s where you need to be,” he adds. “The industry is absolutely moving this way.”
Typically, facilities see an immediate return on investment (ROI) in both hard and soft-cost savings. Savings come from faster processes, streamlined contract and formulary compliance, and procurement efficiencies. Organizations also benefit from better reporting capabilities.
“You now have access to spend by vendor, by item, contract versus non-contact spend and more,” Lawrence says. “These are really important pieces you never had before. It’s hard to put a dollar figure on this, but facilities know they need it.”