UHC Selects Vendor of the Year

Academic medical centers are all about teaching, and improving clinical techniques and outcomes. And they want their vendors to help. That’s a big reason why University HealthSystem Consortium – an alliance of 101 academic medical centers and 178 affiliated hospitals – recently selected Sage Products as its Supplier of the Year.

“There are a couple of things unique about Sage,” says Roberta Graham, senior vice president of UHC. “Sage focuses on a lot of areas that are important to our members – value analysis and hospital-acquired pneumonia, which is a big effort of ours. They provide posters, case studies and everything you need to trial products. They work with our nursing staff to make sure their products are being used appropriately. Their Web site is impressive and clinically oriented, and that’s important to our members.”

Cary, Ill.-based Sage used to be the market share leader in sharps containers, but in 1999, sold that part of its business to reinvent itself and focus on patient safety and evidence-based practices, says company President Scott Brown. Today, its product line includes products for oral hygiene, basinless bathing, incontinence care, heel protection and pre-operative care.

“Being a great supply chain partner is about having value beyond your price and products,” Brown says. “It’s having a product that delivers, and not just from an availability standpoint. If you’re talking about having something that’s supposed to be an intervention, it’s a question of, ‘Are you getting the outcomes? Is it becoming a best practice, and is it something the group can share with all its members?’”

Sage works through distributors, but it has 65 field reps and 15 inside reps to help customers with product implementation. “Their goal is to ask the customer what issues they’re trying to deal with, to find out whether our intervention will help, and once implemented, to determine how to measure it,” says Brown.

Selection process
The Vendor of the Year is selected by UHC members and Novation senior management. (Novation is the purchasing program of UHC and VHA.) Surveys are distributed to member groups, including supply administrators, pharmacy, lab, diagnostic imaging, surgical services, med/surg services, nursing and cath lab; as well as Novation’s senior management.

Contract performance evaluation includes:

  • Completion of letters of participation/letters of compliance within the approval period.
  • Completion of “best price” negotiations within 60 days of original request.
  • Prompt updates of pricing files (with no files older than 30 days).
  • Prompt reporting (within 60 days) of sales and payment of administrative fees.

UHC members were asked to judge potential suppliers on the following criteria:

  • Service level of company reps. (Are they available? Reliable? Honest? Proactive? Compliant with hospital policies regarding product detailing? Accurate?)
  • Company reps as a resource. (Do they perform clinical or procedural training as needed? Do they understand the total cost impact of their products and services? Do they understand all the elements of the contract? )
  • Ability to adapt to customer needs. (Does the company provide education program support? Clinical program support? Product standardization support? Are company reps authorized to respond to local customer requirements?)