What began nearly a century ago as a local hospital association has grown in recent years to serve over 7,000 healthcare providers nationwide.
Saving customers money is important, but CHAMPS Group Purchasing (Cleveland, Ohio) has discovered it takes much more than that to fill the needs of a growing membership. “We realized many years ago that it isn’t enough to simply save members money if you are not working closely with them to identify their organizational goals,” says Yolandi Myers, vice president. “Our organization has changed vastly over the years, including the way we collaborate with our membership. Our Client Services team acts as an extension of the member’s purchasing department, consulting and collaborating with them to perform data analytics that guide them to savings opportunities; resolve connection, communication and pricing issues with suppliers; and help them achieve their organization’s supply chain goals.”
The Journal of Healthcare Contracting spoke with Myers about the group’s evolvement over the years, how CHAMPS works to successfully service its members and its direction moving forward.
The Journal of Healthcare Contracting: When was CHAMPS started and what has been its mission?
Yolandi Myers: The Greater Cleveland Hospital Association started in 1916. In 1918 these Cleveland hospitals decided to work together to acquire supplies, and our GPO efforts were born. While our membership has changed tremendously, our mission remains the same: to help members coordinate purchasing and contracting efforts in order to save money.
JHC: How has CHAMPS grown since it was started?
Myers: Over the past ten years, CHAMPS membership has evolved from a local collaborative to now serving the 7,000+ healthcare provider locations in all 50 states participating in our GPO. We actively recruit new members every day and continue to bring value to them, as well as to our existing members. Each time our membership base grows, the savings opportunity does as well. Because of our ability to aggregate our collective members’ spend, we are able to work with our supplier partners to drive down cost This is a vital advantage, enabling our members – especially critical access and rural hospitals – to access higher contract tiers, which deliver higher discounts and lower cost.
JHC: How has being part of a regional purchasing coalition enabled your members to leverage their buying power?
Myers: Since the majority of our members are not part of large healthcare systems, they understand the value of participating in a collaborative that concentrates their purchasing power and enables them to maximize their GPO discount structure.
JHC: How much savings did the coalition achieve in the first year, and how has that increased since?
Myers: Member savings vary greatly between classes-of-trade through the continuum of care and are also very dependent on the provider’s previous GPO. Typical savings for an acute care facility joining CHAMPS range between 6 and 10 percent, but in the non-acute market we frequently see savings of over 20 percent.
JHC: Can you explain the process whereby your supply chain executives meet and make their decisions?
Myers: Since our membership is spread across the country, in-person group meetings are not common. Our national account managers are specialized by class of trade and bring virtual collaboration efforts to reduce costs to the membership for decision-making and implementation.
JHC: How do you co-exist with your national GPO?
Myers: We are extremely involved with our national GPO partner, Premier healthcare alliance, so the majority of agreements accessed by CHAMPS members are in the Premier portfolio. The value that CHAMPS adds is to provide access to lower costs through spend aggregation. Additionally CHAMPS itself negotiates a portfolio of contracts that is designed to supplement the Premier portfolio. Through careful selection of suppliers – in some cases, regional ones – we drive value in our portfolio, as well as what we offer through Premier. CHAMPS truly is an extension of Premier to provide value for our members, as well as market share for the suppliers and manufacturers. CHAMPS builds upon this relationship, developing custom GPO contracts that complement the Premier portfolio. This helps us live out our mission of providing low-cost contracts for high quality supplies and services, while helping healthcare providers maximize their supply chain efficiencies.
JHC: How do you ensure that the interests of each of your facilities are considered and that each facility’s needs are met?
Myers: CHAMPS has a unique service model. Because of the diversity of our membership, we have built a model where account management experts work directly with members on a customized plan to identify savings and implement GPO pricing. Each new member has a dedicated account manager, and we build strategic partnerships and shared goals with each facility or group. Our supplier-relations initiatives include working directly with our GPO-contracted suppliers to provide additional value (not just price) to each class of trade and to membership as a whole.
JHC: How difficult is it to get buy-in to the coalition’s contracts from each of your facility’s physicians and staff?
Myers: This is a challenge. Physicians and other providers in the post-acute market are busy. Their patient loads are heavy and they are looking to cut costs anywhere they can. When we meet with them, they have limited time and often it is clear that the person in charge of purchasing also wears many other hats. That is why we have created systems to help with GPO contract management, electronic price activation and identification of top contract savings opportunities. Our account management team uses these systems to consult with the members on their best options and handle the contract connection process for them, minimizing the time it takes the members to manage their own GPO spend.
JHC: Other than cost-savings your coalition has achieved through greater volume purchasing, what has been the greatest benefit of the coalition to its members?
Myers: The support members get from CHAMPS as a free service to their hospitals, practices and skilled nursing facilities always gets high praise. CHAMPS works to ease the burden of contract management and local negotiation, giving supply chain executives and staff the ability to focus on broader goals.
JHC: How do you envision your purchasing coalition in the next several years?
Myers: There will continue to be growth in our membership and in savings to providers, as well as value to supplier partners. CHAMPS has a collaborative approach, so we will continue to explore new areas for group effort and will provide more support to our membership through evolving technology solutions and contracting strategies. We strongly believe that the ability to move market share is imperative in a sustainable model, so we will continue to progress in this area. I envision intense collaboration and solid partnerships in our future, which will sustain and support members as they learn to prosper under new care models.