Navigating to Excellence

VHA Forum allows healthcare stakeholders to share best practices on improving performance

VHA’s 2013 “Navigating to Excellence Forum,” held this spring, brought together clinical leaders, supply chain and pharmacy executives and suppliers to improve performance.

“Collaborating and sharing best practices can accelerate change as hospitals adopt new initiatives and shift to value-based payment and delivery models,” said Colleen Risk, VHA executive vice president, prior to the Forum.

This year’s event featured VHA staff and members, who shared their experience in supply chain and clinical improvement. Others from across the industry helped present a broad look at the opportunities in today’s environment.

On Day 1, four experts representing healthcare policy, economics and consumer health discussed challenges in 2013, ranging from the impending launch of insurance exchanges across the country, to patient engagement, to educating the next generation of providers.

Harvard University Professor David Cutler said that one of the biggest problems hospitals face is figuring out how to provide for patient needs while keeping a tight grip on labor costs. Noting that a highly qualified nurse can earn up to $150,000 per year, he predicted a “brewing fight” between nursing staffs and hospitals, for whom 60 percent of costs are labor-related. Meanwhile, Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, said that the biggest problem facing the industry is the lack of attention being paid to community health needs.

VHA Upper Midwest leaders shared their research on ways to integrate clinical and supply data in order to improve organizational performance. Allan Johnson, PhD, recently retired senior vice president and executive officer of VHA Upper Midwest, said that stakeholders need to be mindful of four key concepts when analyzing data: the reliability of the data, the validity of it, any uncertainty or unexplained variances, and whether the data sets are actually sufficient for a trustworthy analysis.

VHA Upper Midwest Vice President Rob Welch, MD, showed how disparate data sets from multiple hospitals can be analyzed productively to develop an effective contracting strategy for dual chamber pacemakers. By comparing data from hospital to hospital on the cost of the pacemakers, device reimbursement levels and the percentage of ensuing complications and readmissions, Welch showed how even incomplete data can be successfully analyzed to yield effective purchasing strategies.
Johnson and Welch agreed that the cost of goods, by themselves, may not be drivers of high overall costs. A bigger problem is that few organizations have the necessary systems to generate even basic data and reports that enable them to analyze their current operations and outcomes.

Supply network jackpot
A “Hit the Supply Network Jackpot” session featured six stations with various casino games, designed to make the learning fun and to engage attendees in sharing their tips for driving cost down and efficiencies up.

  • At the Pharma “Wheel of Fortune” station, supply network representatives discussed how getting pharmacists to the table resulted in gaining expertise on pharmaceutical products that the networks didn’t have before.
  • The Roulette table focused on partnering with physicians for supply chain success. One takeaway: Include physicians in a “kick the tires” day of supplier demonstrations.
  • At the Kentucky Derby Race station, attendees saw how linking supply and clinical data can create insights into variations in the cost and utilization of materials.
  • The Blackjack table focused on the complex world of multi-network initiatives, and representatives showed how creating a blueprint of best practices can drive collaboration and greater engagement.
  • The High-Roller table let players see how different budget cycles and priorities for capital expenses can derail multi-network collaboration.
  • In the Lounge area, attendees discussed how clinical subcommittees help to engage clinicians in supply chain processes and open the lines of communication, especially where clinical preference is involved.

Supply Chain Performance Improvement Awards
Eleven hospitals and health systems received the 2013 VHA Leadership Award for Supply Chain Management Excellence.

  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Lebanon, N.H.; and Yale-New Haven Health System, New Haven, Conn., were recognized for “Sourcing and Resource Management Processes,” including product selection, contracting, procurement, standardization and utilization
  • Hallmark Health System, Medford, Mass.; Parkview Health, Fort Wayne, Ind.; and St. Clair Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa., were recognized for “Distribution, Logistics and Inventory Management,” whose criteria included impact on quality, service, outcomes and overall return on investment
  • Aultman Hospital, Canton, Ohio; Meriter Health Services, Madison, Wis.; and Unity Health System, Rochester, N.Y., were recognized for “Health Care Organization Index Improvement,” reflecting organizations’ effectiveness in managing price performance amid regular market fluctuations in comparison to hospitals nationwide
  • Aultman Hospital, Canton, Ohio; Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich., were recognized for “Physician Preference Item Index Improvement,” reflecting how well organizations manage the high-cost categories of orthopedics, cardiology and spine amid high physician engagement stemming from personal preference and impact on patient outcomes.

Sustainability Excellence
Three health systems were recognized with four 2013 VHA Leadership Awards for Sustainability Excellence.

  • Best in Class – Comprehensive Program, recognizing organizations that have a mature sustainability strategy and exhibit organization-wide commitment to upholding standards in their daily business practices: Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Conn.
  • Innovation and Impact – Specific Project, recognizing specific innovations that organizations have implemented to enhance their own operations but that also have the ability to impact the way the healthcare sector approaches a more sustainable future: Providence Health & Services, Portland, Ore.; and Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich.

In addition, 40 hospitals and health systems received the 2013 VHA Leadership Award for Clinical Excellence.

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