Mike Busdicker: Building an In-House Program Doesn’t Mean Cutting Ties with Service Providers

About six years ago, our organization started down the path to develop and implement an in-house imaging equipment service program. Early on, we decided that some of our key areas of focus included the need to reduce costs, maintain or improve service quality, meet or exceed caregiver expectations, and provide a safe environment for everyone in the healthcare system.

As the plan was being finalized, we realized this initiative would not succeed without the assistance and input of our existing service providers. Our ability to successfully transition from full-service contracts to an in-house support model had to involve trust at all levels inside and outside the organization. The process included open dialogue with internal caregivers, organizational leadership, and with the service providers. In order to build a successful in-house program, we needed buy-in at all levels of the organization and collaboration with service suppliers.

Here at Intermountain Healthcare, we use the word “suppliers” to reference organizations that work with us in a collaborative way. A vendor is someone who sells hot dogs, and popcorn at ballgames. Don’t get me wrong; we do work with vendors, but for the most part they exist strictly on a transactional basis. In our business model, a supplier is someone who works with you to deliver a product that provides a win for healthcare as a whole. It is imperative that everyone be involved with the process and focus on providing the best service possible to our patients. It is not about cutting out the supplier and strictly reducing costs; it is about providing the best solution that will enhance patient care without driving up the overall cost of healthcare.

This means we must work with our suppliers to ensure we achieve our overall goal. Some of the basics for this transition included the need to train and develop in-house service professionals. Building internal capability of staff might include movement of some equipment through different service levels and not just cutting the contract and telling the supplier we don’t need them.

We worked with our suppliers to build the technical capability of the in-house staff and win the trust of the stakeholders. We found the best way to accomplish this goal was through the involvement of select suppliers in the process from the start. We brought them to the table and implemented agreements and processes that provided them stability, the ability to forecast for the future, and the opportunity to share input into the development of our internal program. We developed a collaborative relationship that was a win-win for all parties. To me, this represents a win for healthcare as a whole because the supplier will not need to make up the margin somewhere else. The bottom line is healthcare reform needs to be a focus for everyone, and this goal will require suppliers and HTM departments to step outside the proverbial box.

Mike Busdicker, MBA, CHTM, is system director of clinical engineering at Intermountain Healthcare, which is based in Salt Lake City, UT.

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