With the application of numerous information systems, healthcare organizations have access to a wealth of data. However, interpreting and actionizing that data can be challenging. Data system integration has been common practice in other industries, for example in retail, manufacturing, and grocery, and the lessons learned in those trades can be applied to healthcare. One way integrated systems can be utilized is to calculate total cost of care.
Often organizations use average cost models, which do not include the true cost of support services or indirect overhead, such as ancillary services. That makes it difficult to explore clinical variation and promote standardization. Compounding that, many organizations are not collecting and, therefore, applying relevant data.
One solution is to align inventory management software with the electronic health record to capture everything that is used in an episode of care, including postoperative care and ancillary services.
Organizations can work with suppliers on streamlining device and drug identification. As it stands, hospitals collect only a small amount of data on products. Most of the data is generated by the manufacturers and distributors.
Manufacturers apply their own identification codes and data standards. That data is passed on to group purchasing organizations that create their own identification codes. Finally, those are passed on to hospitals that apply their own codes within their inventory management systems. This convoluted process is prone to redundancies and waste. However, if universal data standards like those in place in retail and grocery were used, then all of that data could be directly transferred to the hospital and fed into the EHR.
One organization HBI spoke with partnered with a third party to synthesize and align the data—much of it according to GS1 standards—and funnel the contracted items into its EHR system. The clinicians can then capture the items according to a preference card or via barcode scanners.
The organization now has a better view of the total cost of care by doctor, procedure, item, and cost variation. It has also improved its ability to comply with track and trace requirements. Also, the system allows supply chain to utilize a demand-pull system where reorders are triggered by usage. Additionally, the data is shared with physicians who are able to see how they are performing next to their peers and adjust their practices.
Creating actual change means engaging staff from several departments: revenue cycle, physicians, nursing leaders, and others from different operational areas. By gaining a comprehensive view of actual spend across the continuum of an episode of care, supply chain can adapt procurement decisions to lower costs, and other leaders can reevaluate care decisions to reduce practice variation and improve outcome metrics such as readmissions and length of stay.
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