February 11, 2014

From the Vice Chancellor's Suggestion Box

Suggestion: Respondents to the Vice Chancellor’s Suggestion Box have made a number of cost saving suggestions on the management of medical supplies and equipment.

There have been some excellent suggestions that have been forwarded to the appropriate individuals in our Supply Chain operation, Purchasing and Pharmacy.

While we had very good success in making improvements in supply and equipment costs, more can be achieved. In 2008, our supply chain processes were re-organized to include a Medical Economic Outcome Committee (MEOC). Composed of physicians, nurses and supply and equipment specialists, this group studies a vast array of medical equipment and supply options, with a view to finding opportunities to standardize or improve our selections based upon evidence. MEOC is always focused primarily on improving patient care outcomes. In the six years since MEOC was founded, $59 million in recurring savings has been achieved.

At a larger scale, through a new group purchasing organization the Medical Center is able to pool purchases with more than 2,200 other organizations to achieve optimal pricing. And in the upcoming year, additional work is planned in our operating rooms and in procedural areas, where we still have opportunities to improve and standardize equipment and supplies, working in close partnership with our clinical faculty and staff.

Managing the cost of pharmaceuticals is another area of significant opportunity. One method we have used is our outstanding Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) committee, which sets the policies surrounding our inpatient pharmacy formulary. Through their efforts, we continue to increase the use of generic medications and optimize administration dosages and regimens in a manner that minimizes waste and ensures the best care. Moreover, only new medications that demonstrate a clear advantage over currently available therapies are granted formulary status. This year, an outpatient formulary is also being created to further reduce the cost of drugs in our broader practice environments. Also, drug shortages have been an increasing problem around the country, and working with our distributors our pharmacies have proactively and expertly managed our inventories to ensure adequate supplies at the lowest cost.

A number of individuals have made comments and suggestions about the potential to reduce our equipment inventory by making it easier to locate supplies. One suggestion is to mark items with radio frequency tags (RFID), and also to use this technology to monitor storage and use conditions. This idea is actively being piloted, in areas ranging from temperature monitoring to the routine tracking of wheelchairs and stretchers. The early results are promising, and we expect to expand the use of this capability as a time-saver for our personnel, and to better manage the size of our equipment inventory.