By Daniel Casciato
Across the health care industry today, there is widespread anxiety about reimbursement and costs continue spiraling out of control. To remain competitive, hospitals have to be cost efficient and mindful of their budgets while still being able to remain at the cutting-edge of technology.
With the passage of the healthcare reform act adding to the current challenges of healthcare facilities, group purchasing organizations are an important component in assisting them to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and survive in difficult economic times.
Adding value to your organization
A GPO is easy to join, and hospitals can access discounts within their supply chain, including medical supplies, laboratory products, pharmaceuticals including vaccines, office supplies, computers and software, telecommunications, furniture, document management products and form printing.
Achieving cost efficiencies in your supply chain allows you to concentrate on providing superior care to your patients. Group purchasing adds value to your organization by using the aggregated buying power of hospitals, physicians, and other care providers to negotiate discounts and other favorable terms with manufacturers, distributors, and services suppliers.
GPOs are an efficient way to improve the supply chain cost structure and therefore profitability of almost any practice, notes Todd C. Ebert, president and CEO of the privately owned GPO, Amerinet. The company is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. and is owned by two investor-owner organizations, Intermountain Healthcare of Salt Lake City, UT, and Administrative Resources, Inc., (ARI) based in Warrendale, PA.
“Our mission is to help our customers reduce healthcare costs so they can use those dollars to help increase quality and reach for the patients they serve,” Ebert says. “We’re large enough to have the critical mass that gives us the price competitiveness we want to achieve, but also, we’re small enough to be flexible and nimble in dealing with each customer’s unique needs.”
As a result, Ebert says that Amerinet listens to and understands its customer’s needs and is able to address those unique needs to deliver valuable solutions.
“In essence, we’re not a big box solution—we’re a customized solution,” he adds. “I think that’s something that distinguishes us from our competitors.”
GPOs then and now
According to Ebert, when he first started in the group purchasing industry, a GPO was seen almost exclusively as a product portfolio which customers used from a preferential pricing perspective. Over the years—especially now with healthcare reform and the intense needs to reduce costs from the supply chain and other areas—GPOs have been asked to do more.
“We have the ability to capture and use data to analyze what the purchasing patterns are of an organization,” says Ebert. “From this, we identify opportunities to reduce redundancies/ eliminate duplication and discover instances where there are similar or comparable products that can be used. We can conduct a value analysis and help an organization determine why they should use certain products.”
Amerinet will analyze an organization’s trends, in terms of purchasing and usage patterns, and then collaborate with medical staff and clinicians to identify where the opportunities exist to improve care and reduce costs.
“This is important not only from the standpoint of the acquisition of the product, but also in determining utilization of the product and making sure the right patients receive the right product,” adds Ebert.
Areas of importance to healthcare facilities, once considered outside the sphere of influence of GPOs, including energy and education, are now among the areas that can be positively impacted by GPO involvement.
“A lot of money is spent in the energy consumption of a hospital, not only from the standpoint of energy acquisition but use of equipment that reduces energy consumption. We can also conduct an audit to ensure that the healthcare facilities’ energy bills are correct,” says Ebert. “We also offer continuing education in more than 25 healthcare disciplines for our customers, providing necessary continuing education credits and knowledge on the things that are important to patient safety and quality—including preventing hospital acquired infections and eliminating hospital falls. There are a number of things that we do to bring value to our customers beyond just the price of a widget in a catalog.”
Caring for their customers
One of the things that Ebert is most proud of is how well Amerinet listens to its customers and their needs. “Once our company understands what our customer’s needs are, Amerinet working closely with them, creates a plan and delivers,” he says.
“Today, the challenge of all healthcare providers is to provide quality care as effectively and efficiently as possible. Providers are not going to be receiving additional increases in reimbursement so they have to look at more efficient operations, reducing consumption in appropriate areas,” adds Ebert. “Amerinet’s goal is to bring value to its customers, which in turn can help them stretch their healthcare dollars to serve more patients and to bring the best healthcare outcomes to their patients.”
Ebert feels the importance of GPOs has become even more evident as healthcare has continued to evolve and improve, and new technologies have come forward.
“That is exciting because what we do is very valuable,” he says. “We help provide answers to healthcare reform and lower the cost of the supply chain for our customers, but we also to do it the right way, always utilizing the Amerinet values of trust, integrity, honesty, and execution with quality as guiding principles. We’re an organization that has important values that we focus on when doing business in a very competitive and challenging market. That’s very satisfying to me.”
For more information on Amerinet, visit their website at www.amerinet-gpo.com.