Publish Date: October 23, 2019
A thorough assessment of products is essential to ensuring the items used in an ASC will achieve clinical and financial goals. Rushing product selection can lead to a slew of problems that risk jeopardizing patient safety and solvency.
"Our facility has developed a reputation for delivering very high-quality care," says Heather Harper, chief executive officer of Lakeside Surgery Center in Omaha, Neb. "One of the reasons why is that we are careful to make purchasing decisions that improve outcomes and patient satisfaction. As a for-profit facility, we also work to identify opportunities to purchase products that will reduce our costs and grow our bottom line without harming quality."
Harper shares the following four steps her ASC takes for evaluating and choosing products that help achieve these objectives.
- Complete due diligence. Before a potential new product receives serious consideration, Harper says her ASC performs extensive research.
"If it is a new clinical item, such as an implant, we check to see if the Food and Drug Administration has approved it and how long it has been in use," she says. "We also look for stories — good and bad — about the product and if there are any reviews available. From a financial perspective, we research whether the product is on contract so we can bill for it. For some items, this is a very important consideration as we strive to keep our patient costs at a minimum and carefully manage our expenses per patient case."
- Perform analysis. If the due diligence process does not raise any red flags, Harper says her team will analyze the value a new product could bring to the ASC.
"We will not add a new product because a provider asks for it, or a vendor says we should use it," she says. "Every Monday, I bring together our clinical leadership team and materials manager to carefully review any products in which we are considering investing. We discuss how the product will impact patient care and analyze the cost to our facility and the patient. If applicable, we will compare that product to what we already use."
- Request samples. Another important aspect of the evaluation process is hands-on time with the product. Harper says her ASC requests samples of any new product under consideration, as was the case when the center began evaluating its options for total joint replacements.
"We are going to start performing total joints soon," she says. "For these procedures, we will be using what is described as 'surgery in a box' — a customizable box that includes almost all of the supplies we will need to perform the procedures. For example, a knee scope surgery in a box would have every disposable required from start to finish. We use these types of boxes for all our cases. This approach saves us significant time pulling supplies."
The ASC identified two companies with such an offering for total joints and requested samples. "When the samples arrived, we closed down an unused operating room and brought these boxes into it," Harper says. "Our clinical staff opened and evaluated all of the supplies included in the boxes. They were checking to make sure the boxes had what we expected and what we would need to perform total joints properly."
- Conduct a trial. Whenever possible, Harper says her ASC will trial a product extensively. For example, members of the center's team recently attended a conference and learned about ice packs designed to mold to a patient's body.
"This was in contrast to what we were using, which were more rigid in design," she says. "We asked the company that designed the moldable ice packs if we could trial them. We brought some back to our ASC and used them on patients, requesting their feedback. A teammate also had a neighbor who had undergone hip surgery, and we brought one to him to compare to the more rigid packs he was provided. What we learned from our patients and this neighbor was that the ice packs not only fit better, but they stayed cold and in place longer."
While these newer ice packs were an improvement over the type used by the ASC, there was one concern, Harper says: They would not be billable until next year.
"For a more expensive product, we may have postponed the purchase," she says. "But since we felt these ice packs provided such an improvement in care at minimal cost, and we would be able to bill for them in 2020, we were leaning toward making the switch anyway. What sealed the deal was when the company that developed the ice packs offered to imprint our logo on the packs for free if we partnered with them this year. Now we have a great new product that is also a marketing mechanism."
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