Going for the Gold Standard

As one of the health care industry’s largest group purchasing organizations, Premier Purchasing Partners is responsible for evaluating products and services and then selecting the most cost-effective solutions. The goal of the Charlotte, N.C.-based organization is to unite a fragmented, chaotic and inefficient health care system.

Seven years ago, frustrated by the lack of industry-standard product, supplier and organization ID numbers, Premier decided to collect data from disparate systems and standardize them based on Premier’s item master list.

Marla Weigert, group vice president, Purchasing Partners Data/Technology, details how Premier streamlined the product information management process and reduced the time and resources spent manually standardizing data.

Premier Purchasing Partners is a hospital performance improvement alliance that’s owned by nearly 200 nonprofit hospitals and health care systems serving more than 2,000 U.S. hospitals and 53,000-plus other health care sites. Our members, which range from small rural health care providers to large inner-city facilities, represent the gamut of medical care.

Since 1996, we’ve helped improve the health of the communities we serve by aggregating both data and purchasing power to accelerate cost and quality improvements. We maintain the nation’s largest clinical, operational and financial database through which members can evaluate benchmarks, identify improvement opportunities and drive positive change. By leveraging our vast information repositories and proactively sharing best practices, our alliance members can stay ahead of changes that could negatively affect their margins and patient outcomes.

We use the buying clout of our alliance to negotiate contracts that reflect best pricing and work with our member hospitals to implement those contracts. This collaboration reduces our members’ staffing needs, improves productivity and ultimately delivers hundreds of millions of dollars in validated savings.

Our primary mission is to drive down health care costs while improving the quality of patient care. We are determined to beat an industrywide statistic that finds nearly half of the costs in the health care products supply chain are “avoidable process costs.”

To attain that goal, we asked the following questions: What are these avoidable process costs? What best practices should we adopt to eliminate them? Is there technology available to reduce these process costs, or would we need to develop our own? How can we deliver more transparency to the entire health care supply chain and lower the probability of paying avoidable process costs in the future?

Though we spend a lot of time and money cleansing and standardizing our product data manually, without universal product data standards, there’s no uniformity in how our member hospitals describe the items they buy and use. Part numbers are often missing or altered, and there are no standard product descriptions for basic supplies and complex medical devices.

The obvious solution would be to implement industrywide standards, but we could not wait for the standards to catch up. So we developed and implemented our own standards to streamline the process and reduce the time and resources spent manually standardizing and matching the millions of products we process daily.