Author: Edelstein, Robert
Date published: March 1, 2012
Journal code: HCPN
As experts in specialty surgical instruments, executives at Millennium Surgical have seen hospital and ASC personnel deal with more than a few market challenges. The last thing they have time for is time-consuming research on noncare-related tasks, such as the purchase of surgical instruments. However, . - this opens up the opportunity for purchasing agents to save time and money by delegating these tasks to an informed consultant. We've seen how a reputable, knowledgeable product consultant can provide valuable industry insights to streamline the ordering process and fulfill even the most indistinguishable surgeon requests, helping purchasers navigate the complications of the marketplace.
Over the years, surgical instruments have become more complex and specialized. Millennium has watched the inventory of the typical vendor catalog increase by approximately 30% in the past five years, making it more difficult for surgeons and purchasing agents to identify items from year to year or facility to facility. In addition, hospitals typically hold multiple instrument contracts that change frequently, items are discontinued on a regular basis, and acquisitions and vendor name changes abound.
An educated, well-established surgical instrument consultant should be familiar with the history of different instruments as their names morph and their source companies change hands, and will make an effort to ease the purchasing process for facility staff, providing support, research and other assistance. E.g., a nurse recently called looking for a Richards ear knife, once supplied by Smith & Nephew Richards. Richards ENT instruments are no longer sold through Smith & Nephew Richards; they are sold through Gyrus ENT - recently acquired by Olympus Corporation, which is now Gyrus ACMI.
Surgeons can be adamant about their preferences, but their requests can be ill-defined and mystifying. Cheryl Kiraly, purchasing manager at Hind Hospital in Hobart, IN, corroborates how demanding the process of finding a specific instrument can be.
"We have new surgeons come in with instruments in mind," she states. "Sometimes they have a picture of something and no name. Sometimes they just draw something." Still other times, the surgeon knows an instrument by one name, but the name is wrong or outdated. A well-versed instrument supply company will be familiar with the progression of brands and monikers that various manufacturers have used over the years. Millennium's product consultants, for example, have years of experience in the marketplace and keep abreast of new procedures and instruments as they emerge, providing long-term industry insights.
Like many of her peers, Kiraly has little time to sit at a desk and investigate each individual instrument request. "It's great to be able to call someone and say, ? need an instrument that looks like this, and is this big/ and have them answer, 'Sure, we have it," she said. Cheryl has worked with Millennium for more than 13 years, bringing the service with her from her last position. The ability to rely on a purchasing partner for that expertise saves her considerable hours "where I don't have to Google/' she says. In addition, representatives are readily available, as opposed to customer service reps that keep callers in a hold pattern.
Claire Larsen is a purchasing assistant for CURE International (Lemoyne, PA, www.cure.org.), a not-for-profit which establishes surgical facilities all over the world to correct physical disabilities in children from disadvantaged and third-world environments. She is called upon by surgeons in foreign countries to procure anything from a single instrument to lengthy sets of lists. Keeping costs low is a priority; meeting surgeons' needs is crucial.
Larsen was recently charged with procuring more than ten very specialized cranial, spinal, and orthopedic surgical instrument sets for the Beit CURE Hospital of Zambia. She was faced with an exhaustive list containing references to more than 30 vendors. Larsen passed the requirements along to suppliers.
Millennium researched the list, organizing her requests by instrument and vendor, and compiling the information into detailed workbook with pricing and stats on more than 90% of the requested items. It included guidance on how to obtain remaining items that couldn't be sourced through Millennium. This allowed CURE International to quickly purchase the surgical instruments required for the Zambian hospital while keeping procurement costs to a minimum, satisfying surgeons' requests, and maintaining clinical quality.
"It's a Godsend to have a partner who can answer questions for us," said Larsen. "For the Zambian program, the information I had was very vague and incomplete. It was like a big puzzle. I wanted to make the sets as complete as possible, and I don't think I would have been able to do that in good time without the extra research." She noted that this research was conducted and submitted before CURE had ordered a single item.
One nurse administrator recently contacted Millennium armed only with the doctor's nickname for an instrument and a general description. Their message said simply: "Looking for a carpal tunnel knife. A fasciatome. Any ideas?"
Millennium's product consultant relied on 23 years of experience working with OR staff and supplying specialty surgical instruments. The consultant was able to identify the instrument as a Paine' s Carpal Tunnel Retinaculotome knife, which the administrator confirmed via a product image the consultant sent. That consultant's work literally saved the purchaser hours of independent research- without any additional cost.
An educated, consultative partner can be a valuable resource for OR managers and staff, allowing them to meet their sourcing deadlines without dedicating in-house resources to the time-intensive chore of researching specialty instruments. In a complicated industry, facilities should welcome the chance to delegate their purchasing projects to a trusted, experienced market associate.
by Robert Edelstein, CEO1 Millennium Surgical