Viewpoint: Standardization is necessary to reduce costs and improve care

Standardizing the supplies, devices and implants physicians use is imperative not only to reduce hospital spending, but to improve the quality of care, according to an op-ed in STAT written by Chuck Peck, MD, managing director at Navigant. 

According to a study released Nov. 13 by Navigant, the average hospital spent $12.1 million more in supply chain costs than it needed to in 2018, a 22.6 percent increase from 2017. Supply chain costs are expected to surpass labor as the greatest hospital operating expense by 2020.

The study also found that hospitals that had the most efficient supply chains had slightly better scores in multiple Medicare quality programs, which suggests that reducing supply chain costs doesn't mean a decrease in quality of care. 

According to Dr. Peck, many physicians use the supplies they do because they don't have the data needed to convince them to change. They need to be told how much the supplies they use cost, as that isn't something they've traditionally had to consider. The increase in comparison tools that allow patients to compare cost of care is forcing physicians to consider the cost of the supplies they use. 

Dr. Peck said it is imperative for hospitals to find at least one person to champion the cause of standardization, and that it would be best if that person were a physician leader like the chief medical officer or chair of a department of surgery. That way, physicians are less likely to question if cost-cutting decisions will affect quality of care. 

Dr. Peck added that standardizing the supplies physicians use allows physicians and support staff to focus on eliminating care variation, which decreases errors and complications and therefore improves quality of care. 

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