Three Pillars to Leverage Technology and Drive Efficiency

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There are a lot of questions about the future of healthcare right now.  Operating at the highest level will always be a top priority for systems.  One way to combat the possibility for adverse effects is identifying gaps in the use of technology across supply chain management systems.

Yes, they still exist in 2017.

Healthcare spending in the United States is projected to reach nearly five trillion dollars by 2021, but an Institute of Medicine report shows $750 billion a year is wasted by our healthcare system.[1]  One way to turn around inefficient practices is by looking at your technology in three pillars.

Pillar 1: Foundational Processes

Start with the basics and keep it simple. Healthcare systems should look at their supply chain processes.  Are you tackling as much as you’d like with your current process or platform?  If you’d like to check if that foundation is running on all cylinders, take a closer look at the work flow from electronic invoices, key metrics, fill rates and price accuracy.  According to a GHX industry report about how optimized the payment process is in healthcare, respondents rank invoice processing as one of the areas where automation gives them the most value. Yet, 62 percent receive less than one-quarter of their invoices electronically instead of via paper documentation.

Pillar 2: Operational Excellence

Here’s where technology in your supply chain process can help you establish savings on labor: analyze your replenishment process.  If you’re still managing your inventory by manually counting the items, you’ve just identified a giant hole. So, consider using a Lean Kanban method for your replenishment system.  Having an efficient hospital inventory logistics system can account for 30-40 percent of a hospital’s operating budget.  Apply technology, and think of the long-term savings that come from leveraging an electronic system.

Another practice to note when working to eliminate these gaps in technology is to “let it go” if you find something isn’t working.  You should be able to measure discreet data whether your system and processes are working and at least maintaining minimum standards.  If the critical measurements are showing a positive trend, do not be afraid to expand on that technology.

Pillar 3: Future State Strategy

Waiting to see where things go with your technology and processes isn’t a strategy.  Five years will go by in five years, and it will go by much more quickly than you expect.  Start with a white board and lay out your wish list for the future so you can actively develop a plan to help bring that vision to life. Consider having people from accounts payable, contracting/value analysis or IT participate in the brainstorm to automate the “procure to pay” process as much as possible. This will also help ensure you have data to support ancillary systems well (think electronic medical record and charge description master), or have a system that can manage the high dollar inventories in your OR and diagnostic areas.

If that still seems overwhelming, identify two improvements you would like to implement with your existing or new technology.  If you do two each year for five years, you can look back at 10 measurable aspects of technology improvements within your supply chain.

At the end of the day, you must be able to measure whether your system is working its best for you.  Technology can only go so far if there are holes within your process and you don’t have a means to measure for success.

How are you measuring for success and using technology to help get your organization there?

[1] http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2012/Best-Care/BestCareReportBrief.pdf

About the Author
Dave Rolston

Dave Rolston

Dave Rolston serves as Medline’s vice president of corporate sales technology. In this position, Rolston oversees the growth, implementation and administration of technology-related initiatives and operational aspects of acute care corporate sales. In 1993, Rolston started his Medline career managing a software division. He was promoted to IS director in 2001, and in 2004, began working in sales and marketing for customer-facing technology. Rolston is a member of GS1 US and holds a BS from Eastern Illinois University.


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