The “Supplier Spotlight” and “Provider Spotlight” series is our interview of a supplier or provider in a standard Q & A format every quarter.
This month we had the opportunity to interview Darrel Weatherford, Vice President of AdvantageTrust. He manages the non-acute group-purchasing division of HealthTrust.
HealthTrust is a group purchasing organization (GPO) out of Nashville, TN. It has over 1,600 hospital members.
Healthcare Links: What is AdvantageTrust doing to improve the transition of care from inpatient to outpatient?
Darrel: AdvantageTrust is a division of HealthTrust . AdvantageTrust is the HealthTrust brand that recruits, manages and provides GPO services to non-acute healthcare facilities. We work with members to understand their requirements throughout the continuum of care and then we develop programs, services, and a comprehensive contract portfolio designed to meet the needs of patient care across this continuum. We also work with manufacturing partners to eliminate class of trade barriers that conflict with that effort.
We try to make all HealthTrust contracts available to all classes of trade at one price. This is not always achievable. However, when we can do that it facilitates the use of that product throughout the care continuum.
Healthcare Links: What products or services do you foresee becoming more important in the future because of this transition?
Darrel: We have noticed more complicated surgeries moving from the hospital to the surgery center. As a result, we see a need for a new suite of surgical products not previously seen in the non-acute setting. We are also seeing the use of new innovative products such as regenerative biomaterials in physician practices–particularly in podiatry and plastic surgery.
Healthcare Links: How many members are there in the Advantage Trust program? And how would you best describe their products or solutions?
Darrel: We have over 26,000 individual members in Advantage Trust and we expect by end of this year to grow to 32,000. We are growing rapidly and adding new members organically through the growth of our hospital systems, but also through an increase in new independent members. Members range from physician offices, clinics, home health, hospice, labs, critical access hospitals, and many more. It’s basically the continuum of care outside of large hospitals.
Healthcare Links: How would you educate suppliers that sell mainly to acute care but their products are also used in Long Term Care and Homecare?
Darrel: Suppliers need to familiarize themselves with the differences in patient care settings. Quality requirements may be different. For example, there are some products that may be used with a patient in the hospital for a few hours. However, in a Long Term Care (LTC) facility the patient may use the product for much longer. So the quality of the product in the LTC setting may need to be of much higher caliber than in the hospital. It’s also important to note that most LTC facilities are under tremendous financial pressure. They are very sensitive to the cost of purchased goods and services.
Distribution channels are different for non-acute facilities versus hospitals, as is the sophistication of their supply chain systems – hospital systems are much more advanced.
In Homecare, a nurse may bring both the product and service to the patient. However, more frequently distributors and suppliers are drop shipping the product directly to the patient and the nurse or healthcare practitioner is providing service but are not bringing the product to the patient’s home.
Suppliers will need to adjust their approach when selling to these non-acute care in terms of product specifications, distribution channels, customer education and many other factors.
Healthcare Links: What are the major differences between the delivery of inpatient and outpatient care?
Darrel: Lines are beginning to blur as to where patient care is delivered. Procedures previously performed only in hospital ORs are now moving to surgery centers. We also see growth in the number of urgent care centers and long term acute care facilities (LTACs).
Another development we have seen is a single location for a host of medical services: x-ray, dental, primary care, etc. Patients can go to one medical building to receive all their medical care. We have one member that provides a concierge-type service, where patients walk in the door and are greeted by a service professional to help guide them through the medical care that they will be receiving.
A challenge for our industry for members like this is how to classify them. When there is more than one medical service provided in one facility it blurs the class of trade distinctions and it challenges us as to how to handle this type of member from a contract eligibility standpoint.
Healthcare Links: How do technology, service and patient education play a role in primary care physician shortages?
Darrel: There are certainly not enough primary care physicians in the system to accommodate all patients. However, technology can assist medical professionals in healthcare as it has in other industries to be more productive and efficient.
Today, there are a variety of tools to aid in this effort. There are sophisticated patient scheduling systems, electronic medical record systems (EMR) that connect information between the hospital and physicians, and appointment reminder systems. Systems are available to help insure that patients are taking the medications. Remote monitoring systems allow a patient’s vital signs and other factors to be monitored and reviewed by physicians from the comfort of the patient’s home without needing to go into the clinic.
Healthcare Links: Do disruptive retail suppliers like Amazon and Walmart play a role in your supply chain model?
Darrel: These retailers are assessing the healthcare industry to determine what opportunity exists for them. Facilities may purchase non-medical products for their office or break room. However, the real question long-term is if these retail companies want to jump in as a fully functioning medical distributor.
Items that non-acute care facilities may purchase like pharmaceuticals and vaccines require protocols and security. It’s yet to be seen if retailers like Amazon or Walmart will take on these responsibilities to distribute medical supplies.
Also most non-acute care facilities aren’t sophisticated in materials management and rely on a medical distributor that can assist them in the supply chain process. This is currently not a service retail companies such as these provide.
Healthcare Links: Any thoughts on how we can link patient data from acute to non-acute to improve quality of care?
Darrel: Many of our hospital systems have EMR systems that provide patient information across the continuum of care to include the hospital, clinics, physician offices, imaging centers etc. This insures that all caregivers are seeing the same important information about the patient.
Healthcare systems are constantly trying to get a better handle on patient care throughout the continuum of care to better manage patient outcomes and patient experience.