Clinical integration starts with physician champions. Supply chain executives can’t be experts in all areas, and successful clinical discussions tend to occur when physician leaders are the ones initiating those meetings with their physician peers. The physician leader should be able to challenge their colleagues to answer the question, “how does this really benefit the patient?” and “does it benefit beyond just improving a process? In addition, as part of the contract negotiations team, a physician can push back on the supplier to ask clinical questions about the product or device.
- Lead a new product introduction process
Pair physicians with supply chain professionals to lead a new product or procedure introduction process. Having physicians and clinicians lead the process and engage their peers in objective discussions about the cost and quality impact of new products results in a more comprehensive analysis and better decision making. Supply chain professionals play a critical role in identifying and preparing the support materials and managing the logistics of the process.
- Become a member of your contract negotiations team
Physicians offer unique perspectives that can lead to creative contracting strategies. For example, they may have insight into the use of implant accessories that could impact the structure of the negotiation. In some cases, physicians participating in the actual negotiations can be beneficial. It is critical that everyone involved in the negotiation understand their role and the intended outcome. Conducting mock negotiations can be beneficial particularly on large, complex projects.
- Discuss supply utilization variation with peers
Like most people, physicians are more receptive to discussions and data information presented by their peers. This is especially true if the information suggests some type of outlier behavior. One of the challenges is most physicians have a very narrow definition of “peer” so an orthopedic surgeon may not consider a general surgeon to be his/her peer. None the less, engaging physicians in a physician to physician dialogue generally produces better results than a supply chain professional to physician discussion.
- Advise on future trends and new developments
Physicians can be extremely helpful in identifying future trends, particularly in the areas of capital equipment, implantable devices and pharmaceuticals. This ability is further enhanced if your health care system is associated with a medical school. Using information related to technology trends can assist in preparing multi-year capital equipment budgets and the ability to anticipate new product requests.
For more education about physician leadership models and physician relationships take the eLearning course Integrating Physician Leadership in Supply Chain Management and listen to the podcasts Why is Clinical Integration Important? and Discussing Vendor Consolidation with Physicians. Search for more education relating to clinical integration at ahrmm.org.