AHA report also cites affordability and ease of use as key factors beyond interoperability
“Winning solutions should be both cost effective, leveraging existing infrastructure where possible, and easy to implement, given staffing concerns.”
This was a key finding of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Report on the State of Hospital Business Solution Provider Relationships in 2023.1
Currently, many hospitals are facing challenges from disparate systems that are not integrated to legacy solutions. A shift to more integrated, streamlined solution has become a critical necessity in today’s environment of healthcare labor shortages. As the AHA calls out in its research, healthcare is looking for solutions that are easy to implement.
Another consideration is the cost-effectiveness of the solution, as the AHA cites in its market insights. Hospitals are not looking for another standalone solution their IT departments must support. Rather, they are looking for solutions that interconnect with each other.
At a recent healthcare conference, two supply chain leaders representing different IDNs discussed their respective networks efforts to reduce how many systems they have. The driving forces behind their efforts are driven by the current number of discreet solutions that are not integrated across the network and the lack of IT staff to maintain them.
Supply chain opportunities
One area where the digitization of processes and data is having a tremendous impact on efficiency is in the supply chain. Across many industries, supply chain digital transformation has been shown to “reduce process costs by 50% and increase revenue by 20%; hospitals are no exception.”2
But for a hospital supply chain to be truly digital, processes must be automated and eliminating manual intervention, truly serving as a “chain” of information flowing from one system to the next.
The two most critical systems for supply chain solution integration in a hospital are the electronic health record (EHR) and materials management information system (MMIS). Interoperability with these systems unites patient and product purchase/usage data.
The integration of these data sources is vital to providing safe and effective care and calculating the cost of care.
Examples of supply chain solution integration success
Consider product replenishment in a hospital. If a hospital’s supply chain solution is integrated with the hospital’s MMIS solution, users can be alerted when inventory levels go below PAR and order replenishment product all from the supply chain solution. If they are not integrated, users would still be alerted when inventory levels go below par by their supply chain solution, but they would then have to login to their MMIS to place a replenishment order.
Another example of where system integration is important is at the point-of-care. When a product is used on a patient, two tasks are required. The first is to document the use of the product; the second is to deduct that product from inventory. When a hospital’s EHR is integrated with their inventory management solution, those two tasks become one, saving the clinician time.
The healthcare industry is likely to experience another year of staffing and supply shortages. Solutions that are integrated with a hospital’s legacy solutions can boost the efficiency and accuracy of supply chain processes while freeing up more clinical time for direct patient care while helping to ensure products are available when needed.
1 Becoming a Health Care Business Partner of Choice, American Hospital Association (AHA), January 2023, https://sponsors.aha.org/HFC-Gen-6521-Hospital-Partner-Survey-2022_Business-Partner-Survey-2022-LP-Interest-list.html
2 How Digital Transformation Can Improve Hospitals’ Operational Decisions, Harvard Business Review, January 18, 2022