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As Elective Surgeries Resume, A Spotlight on OR Efficiency

Municipalities and states are beginning to open their doors for business following regional surges of COVID-19. Hospitals, too.

Proactive hospitals and health systems are preparing to meet a pent-up demand for elective procedure, including total joint and spine surgeries. While patients have been anxiously awaiting care, the demand will also come from physicians, nurses, staff and even health system administrators and department heads who are eager to serve.

Efficiency and alignment between the operating room (OR) and supply chain are going to be paramount as elective surgeries resume.

Financial sustainability is on the mind of healthcare providers. Several post-pandemic factors are adding an additional layer of complexity to providers’ forecasting efforts, including fluctuations in patient revenue and volume; the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services activity; an uptick in expenses, cost drivers and price fluctuations; and engagement with value-based care models. These shifting dynamics spotlight the need for providers to ensure efficiency in the OR.

To ensure alignment between operative needs and supply chain, communication will be the critical success factor. Supply chain leaders should work with OR staff to understand how they’re addressing the backlog of procedures, anticipated volume, capacity and more. A primary point of contact could be the surgical director, who serves as the coordinator between physicians, surgical staff and the supply chain. This role will help communicate priorities and any required supplies needed to begin elective procedures.

Considering the high volume of anticipated cases, several facilities have been discussing the high likelihood of performing elective procedures during the weekend to help alleviate the backlog of postponed, canceled and newly scheduled cases. Learn more about OR scheduling and other considerations as providers map out the resumption of elective surgeries.

From the supplier perspective, conversations Premier has recently been a part of indicate suppliers are ready to begin elective procedures and have ample staffing and inventory to resume elective cases for joint replacement and spine cases.

An analysis of implants could prove beneficial in evaluating OR opportunity areas.

As providers prepare operationally to restart elective and non-emergent surgeries, they may want to take a closer look at the implants they’re using in some of the high-demand procedures, including hip and knee implants, pacemakers, implantable cardiac defibrillators and anterior cervical fusion plates and screws. A quick assessment of these implants, and the methods providers use to compare and procure them, could open up millions in savings.

Through the lens of high-value implants and strong physician partnerships, here are three ideas for how providers can approach margin improvement opportunities in the OR.

Understand which implants perform equivalent functions.

When supply chain leaders look for functional equivalency in their implants, they go beyond traditional line-item benchmarking, in which pricing for a high-value implant is compared based on an exact supplier and item match using the SKU. While certainly helpful, line-item benchmarking provides a limited view into all available pricing and product options, and it can leave significant savings on the table. On the other hand, when supply chain assesses which implants perform equivalent functions, they can compare the prices of multiple SKUs against each other and across manufacturers.

As part of their strategic revenue recovery plans, health systems should consider whether they fully comprehend alternate implants that are functionally equivalent to the ones currently used in their ORs. With the right clinical subject matter expertise, providers are enabled to assess functional equivalency and cross-reference high-value implants, opening up the number of implants they can consider bringing on contract – potentially at lower prices than the implants that are currently in their ORs.

Improve transparency into what peers are paying for the same implants.

Once providers know which implants are functionally equivalent, they should benchmark to understand their adjacencies to market rates. With robust data and analytics capabilities, providers can see the prices peer facilities pay for comparable implants. Knowing 1) which implants are functionally equivalent and 2) the prices peer facilities are paying for similar implants allows providers to have informed, meaningful conversations with suppliers and surgeons.

Proactively work with physicians with actionable data.

Key to assessing implant pricing is close partnerships with physicians and the surgical teams that use the implants day in and day out. Developing a trusted partnership between the supply chain and physicians often relies on accurate, relevant data – especially as experts say physicians are often a naturally competitive group, and enjoy a health competition among their fellow cohort. When the supply chain can show how much the organization pays for implants, as compared to pricing for implants across peers and functionally equivalent implants, stakeholders are enabled to have an open conversation. Not every high-value implant assessment results in vendor reduction or changes to implant choice, either, which may be important to emphasize to physicians.

Supply chain and physicians should partner at the beginning of a high-value implant initiative to establish a strong foundation for the work. Leaders may ask one or two surgeon champions to help lead the discussion, and bring in outside clinical experts too, such as Premier’s High-Value Implant Advisory Services Team.

Margin improvement efforts will become more essential in the post-pandemic reality.

Amidst the pressures brought on by COVID-19, some truths remain the same. While supply chain teams across the country have, appropriately, been wholly focused on the COVID-19 response, bringing elective surgeries back requires some attention toward pre-pandemic priorities. With that comes the responsibility of ensuring that every operational and clinical decision, including the choosing of high-value implants, aligns with the organization’s financial roadmap.

Premier’s High-Value Implant Advisory Services team brings technology-enabled, clinically integrated solutions to accelerate providers’ revenue recovery efforts during COVID-19 and beyond. Learn more.

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