Supply chain IT reaps benefits of EMR innovation

By Larry McClain, Contributing Writer
09:56 AM
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Supply chain executives at the Premier Breakthroughs conference in Nashville June 15 agreed that materials management departments are often the IT stepchild in their organizations – although EMR innovations are making their jobs a lot easier.

“There’s still a mindset that supply chain doesn’t play a key role in hospital performance,” said Perry Willmore, director of supply chain management at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis. “Consequently, the IT dollars mainly go to other departments. In contrast, Wal-Mart spends a ton of money on supply chain IT.”

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“When an organization makes an investment in an EMR, it’s indirectly a boost for supply chain,” said Jim Olsen, vice president of materials resource management at Carolinas Healthcare System in Charlotte, N.C. “We now have data on physician-preference items showing the costs, outcomes, and readmission rates associated with those products. At our facilities, we’ve always been able to make a strong case for supply chain IT upgrades. When we needed a data warehouse for supply information for all 33 of our hospitals, we were able to demonstrate that it would provide a four-fold return on investment.”

“It’s easy to overlook supply chain when IT budgets get set, but we’ve had good support for the IT upgrades we need, whether it’s hand-held devices or IT dollars to expand our clinical supply management capabilities,” said James O’Connor, vice president of supply chain management at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

[See also: Health systems target efficiency with GS1 Standards.]

The supply chain leaders concurred that physician attitudes about cost-cutting are changing rapidly. “The staff of a major cardiology group just became employees of our hospital,” said St. Anthony’s Willmore. “They’ve already established a supply committee, and what’s driving their interest is the fact that they now have some ‘skin in the game.’ They have a different mindset.”

O’Connor has also seen a change in attitude at Henry Ford, which now has 1,200 employed physicians. “Cost-cutting is on their radar now. We’ve had great success in working with physicians to competitively source spine and cardiology products.”