Novation's mobile apps spur supply chain efficiencies

By Eric Wicklund
10:39 AM

When discussing mobile applications in healthcare, the image that most often comes to mind is that of a doctor calling up a patient’s most recent x-ray or diagnoses on a smartphone, perhaps while at home or at a ball game.

Those at the back end of the healthcare spectrum – in the business office, or down in the supply rooms – would like to point out that they can benefit from mobile technology as well.

[See also: Supply chain IT reaps benefits of EMR innovation.]

Novation, the Irving, Texas-based supply contracting company for more than 30,000 healthcare providers around the nation, offers a mobile app to give healthcare executives real-time access to the supply chain. The app, developed by MicroStrategy and available for the iPhone and iPad, offers instant information on supply prices and market trends, as well as an up-to-the-minute view of the organization’s supply chain.

(Novation offers price management and spend management services to some 25,000 members of national healthcare alliances VHA, Inc. and the University HealthSystem Consortium and another 5,500 members of Provista. The app is available to VHA members as VHA PriceLYNX Mobile, while those in UHC see it as SpendLink.)

“Two years ago, when you had a question (about the supply chain or pricing), the answer was, ‘Well, let me get back to my desk, and I’ll get back to you.’ Now the capabilities (of mobile technology) have grown exponentially, and these tools are available,” said Guillermo Ramas, Novation’s vice president of information and data services. “What you’re really doing is speeding up a process that used to take days, weeks, even months.”

According to company officials, web-based and mobile applications have enabled Novation clients in the VHA consortium to save an average of $4 million per facility. The solutions allow members to instantly track supply prices and make quicker decisions, as well as head off supply shortages and identify bottlenecks before they become problematic.

“In light of increasing demands coupled with lower reimbursements, these robust analytical solutions are helping the member hospitals of VHA cut costs and improve supply chain management in order to survive, and thrive, in the new healthcare environment,” added Dan Sweeny, Novation’s senior vice president, in a press release issued earlier this year.

[See also: mHealth apps forecast to increase threefold by 2012.]

Ramas and Melinda Gardner, also a vice president in Novation’s information and data services group, said the ability to get “clear, believable and reliable data” in real time is a benefit to both providers and vendors in the negotiation process. It adds transparency, Gardner said.

In addition, both said physicians are demanding access to the supply chain as well, as they want to have a say in the ordering of supplies and make sure they have the equipment they need when they need it.

Ramas said Novation hopes to make more use of mobile technology in the future to reach “that magical moment” when all supply chain conversations take place in real time, no matter where the people involved in the conversation are located or where the data is stored.

“There’s huge potential there,” added Gardner.