by Viji Vellayan
Vizient vice president of development

By doing the right things first, value naturally follows. When it comes to sourcing, the “right thing” is to involve physicians and clinicians early and often to ensure high-quality products that result in equally high-quality patient outcomes. 

As part of Vizient’s Excelerate Strategic Health Sourcing, which offers a clinically centered approach to sourcing, I’ve seen the advantages of a physician-led model firsthand. By ascertaining clinically relevant product attributes from clinicians prior to sourcing, you build greater trust with your patient-facing stakeholders. In the current climate of increasing margin pressures and supply constraints, that’s a benefit that can’t be overstated. 

Why incorporate this model into your sourcing and value strategy? 

Physician-engaged sourcing involves gathering perspectives on clinical and service attributes that are critical to patient care. Following an analysis of physician input, sourcing is then conducted based on clinical necessity.  

When suppliers establish their ability to meet clinical requirements through a thorough attribution and cross-referencing process, they become comparable to each other from the perspective of physicians. Service level expectations are then outlined in the agreements supported with penalties and the engagement of the team to ensure expectations are met across all organizations.  

How does this approach build credibility with physicians, clinicians and supply chain staff? 

The physician-engaged value-driving and sourcing approach recognizes that which is of utmost importance to physicians – the quality of products that allow them to consistently deliver top-notch patient care. By gathering physician perspectives through each sourcing initiative, physicians build trust in the process, which in turn, builds credibility.  For example, during the early stages, new provider organizations may start with a single service line and then add more as they become comfortable in the program. As they advance, they can use clinical variation management guidelines to pursue greater value. 

How does physician-led sourcing increase transparency and resiliency across the continuum of care? 

Transparency and resiliency should be integral components of each agreement within a physician-led sourcing model. As we’ve all learned through the pandemic, the best cost is immaterial if we cannot obtain the product. As such, as a provider-based sourcing program should include contingencies to maintain continuity in the event of disruptions. Agreements should contain standard language that protects organizations from supply disruption impacts including financial penalties, advanced notice and clear transparency of product manufacturing locations.  

How does this type of model help health systems from a cost-savings perspective? 

A physician-led sourcing approach can yield substantial savings — Excelerate, for example, typically saves health systems anywhere from 10% to 15% across each service line through contract alignment alone. Additional value can be achieved through product selection and variation management within these areas as well.  

Revisiting each agreement every two to three years allows for the maintaining of downward price pressures. The result is both sustained and new savings, with the added benefit of addressing physicians’ ongoing clinical needs. 

Ultimately, by integrating care and choice, your supply formulary can drive significant financial savings, improve clinical care and enhance supply resiliency — goals that today’s health systems must meet to be successful. 

Learn more about Excelerate.  

About the author: Viji Vellayan is Vizient vice president of development, with over 20 years of experience in change management, operations improvement and healthcare leadership. Prior to joining Vizient, she led the supply chain for 15 hospitals across four states. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from The George Washington University.

Published: November 8, 2022