Special report: Purchasing committees place medical devices on trial

by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer | October 15, 2012
From the October 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“The VAT [value analysis team] reviewed the existing blood pressure cuffs and evaluated them against a competitor,” explains Collins. “After an evaluation was conducted on a variety of units, the competitor’s quality was deemed acceptable for our clinical staff.”

The team was further able to negotiate a better price point for the new cuffs with the assistance of the Medical Center’s affiliate group, Western North Carolina Health Network.

Triggers and processes for purchasing medical equipment
Although a product’s quality and safety tends to be the main game-changer for most committees, the medical device purchasing process as a whole can vary widely from institution to institution.

“Some health care organizations are more technologically advanced than others,” Alfonso says. “This will have
a significant influence on how and what equipment is purchased.”

Even so, the basic format stays the same, according to Griffin. The process predominantly used is called “value analysis,” where groups determine a medical device’s value versus cost. And it always begins with identifying the individual facility’s needs.

“Each institution typically chooses two or three [medical devices] to evaluate, and then they get feedback from the evaluators,” Griffin says.

At Children’s Medical Center Dallas, for example, a request for an evaluation is made, initiating the value analysis process and team review. Once an evaluation is approved, specific criteria and a timeframe are structured to allow for the right involvement and documentation of outcomes.

“If the evaluation determines the product or equipment meets the clinical and operational specifications, a request is made to purchase,” says Brenda Clayton, senior director of supply chain operations and administration at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

The appropriate VAT proceeds to review this request and a recommendation is made to the supply chain executive committee, comprised of senior and operational leadership.

Typical questions addressed during the reviews include: Will the device meet the clinical/patient care need? Is the device compatible with the existing inventory (for example, user training/experience, spare part inventory,
service contracts)? Is the device compatible with the existing infrastructure (software, hardware)? Is the device capable of wireless communication and electronic medical record integration? Is there an existing device that is at the “end-of-life” and needs to be replaced or upgraded to improve quality of patient care delivery?

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