eNews Oct 5, 2021

The latest news affecting you and your customers… from the Independent Medical Specialty Dealers Association

Necessity: The mother of innovation

COVID-19 proved the point

Editor’s note: Along with its challenges, the pandemic has forced providers to get creative in the ways they deliver care. Smart suppliers have helped them. Speakers at the recent 2021 IMDA/HIRA Conference in Chicago spoke about innovations in processes and products that have emerged from COVID-19.


Speaking about financial management:

Todd Nelson, chief partnership executive, Healthcare Financial Management Association

Forced to postpone many elective procedures, hospitals and health systems had to figure out how to provide care to those who needed it while maintaining revenues. Once slow to adopt telehealth, for example, they quickly mastered the process. Some explored mergers and acquisitions, repurposing old facilities and reducing their building footprints. Next up? Navigating the risks and rewards of capitation instead of fee-for-service reimbursement.

With the pandemic, financial managers tuned in to the fact that supply chain management involves far more than the purchase price of products and equipment. It also involves considering the country of origin, warehousing and distribution of critical products; and the benefits of buying from reliable local suppliers.

When considering the cost-effectiveness of a medical product or piece of equipment, financial managers think in terms of spending time and money appropriately to achieve the best possible outcome in terms of patient health and safety. It’s more about mission than margin.

Speaking about supply chain management:

Ian O’Malley, director of strategic sourcing, UChicago Medicine

The pandemic forced supply chain professionals to consider the impact of national and global events on their operations, including hurricanes, wildfires, Brexit, trade wars, congestion at U.S. ports and trucker shortages in the U.S.

That said, COVID has driven resiliency in the supply chain, including:

  • Improved demand planning and inventory management techniques.
  • Development of techniques to safely reprocess critical PPE.
  • Quickly identifying and qualifying new, unfamiliar suppliers.
  • Potentially investing in U.S. manufacturers of medical products.
  • Improved global sourcing capabilities.

Suppliers: Be proactive in providing your customers with the information they need to keep their organizations up and running, including units of measure, pricing agreements, even the size of packaging. (With over 1,200 stocking locations, UChicago Medicine needs to know!)

Speaking about value analysis:

Gloria Graham, Northeast region director, Association of Healthcare Value Analysis Professionals

COVID-19 brought backorders, product scarcity, turn-on-a-dime conversions. Given the preoccupation with PPE, value analysis professionals had little time to evaluate anything else. But the pandemic brought clinical and value analysis teams closer than ever. And that could bode well for specialty dealers.

“We saw a tremendous increase in the visibility of value analysis throughout the organization,” said Graham. “We were on a good pace before COVID, but now we’re on speed dial with many clinicians. They are recognizing the work we do behind the scenes, and they’re asking, ‘What can we do to help?’”

For suppliers:

  • Technology works! Zoom and Microsoft Teams may call for adjustments to sales calls, but value analysis professionals find it easier to get clinicians to participate in a Teams call than to gather them for an in-person product evaluation.
  • Don’t wait until your customer places a PO to let them know about backorders, particularly given the frequency of product outages during the pandemic.

Speaking about ambulatory surgery centers:

Chad Giese, associate principal, Sg2

Medical professionals, consumers and health systems have been busy shifting care from inpatient hospitals to outpatient clinics and surgery centers. Specialties include orthopedics, gastroenterology and ophthalmology. Today, payers are pressing the issue, refusing to reimburse providers for procedures traditionally performed in high-acuity sites. Medicare has been active in encouraging the shift, though recently, CMS has taken its foot off the pedal and assumed a more measured approach.

To stay competitive, hospitals must adapt. Suppliers can help by:

  • Learning their hospital customers’ strategies for delivering outpatient care.
  • Determining how they can help their customers build an outpatient program, not just by helping them manage cost (although that’s important), but providing direction on how to grow the program.
  • Exploring consumer-centric approaches to marketing new technologies.

Speaking about innovation in product development:

John Croushorn, M.D., developer of the Abdominal Aortic and Junctional Tourniquet-Stabilized (AAJT-S)

Innovation enters the medical market in many ways. In the case of the AAJT-S, it was the frequency with which Dr. Croushorn – while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — saw soldiers die because traditional tourniquets couldn’t stanch the flow of blood in pelvic injuries or limb dismemberments. The military immediately recognized the value of the device, now it is up to specialty dealers to introduce it to the civilian market, including EMS and the emergency department.

A final note about innovation: It isn’t limited to inventors. “I truly believe everyone is an innovator,” Croushorn told conference attendees. People make improvements in the way things are done every day. “When you do, share it with others.”