How high-quality medical supplies can help improve the health of populations

Sept. 28, 2020
Third in a four-part series

The term “population health” has grown in recognition since the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) included it as a key component of its Triple Aim initiative, calling on healthcare organizations to improve the health of populations in an effort to optimize health system performance.

In order to truly impact the health of a specific population (e.g., patients with heart disease, diabetes), the health system or hospital must transition from addressing specific episodes of care (e.g., physician office visits, hospital admissions) and broaden its focus to how it can impact cost and quality throughout the care continuum.

There is increased recognition of the impact of supplies on patient care quality and outcomes. Where in the past a hospital might purchase the cheapest product to cut upfront costs, today they are leveraging value analysis committees (VAC) and other key stakeholders to analyze the long-term impact of supply choices. They have learned that, in some cases, paying a little extra for a higher quality product at the time of purchase can lead to significant savings in the long run as a result of less waste, improved performance and enhanced safety.

One area for savings that is often overlooked is the acquisition and use of high-volume, low-cost medical supplies and accessories. The individual upfront cost of these products, encompassing everything from IV tubing to blood pressure cuffs, may seem minimal, but the collective spend in this category resulting from their frequent use and repeated replacement during the course of care adds up. Furthermore, their close contact with patients has a direct impact on outcomes and satisfaction.

Here are some factors to consider when purchasing medical supplies to support the care of populations at multiple points along the continuum.

Compatibility

Patient transportation and transfers between departments often call for switching monitoring accessories to suit different devices in each of those care settings. This wastes product and money, and adds time and inconvenience for everyone involved. Select disposable and reusable supplies that are compatible with a variety of manufacturers’ devices when used with appropriate adapters and trunk cables, such as ECG leads that can remain with the patient from admission to discharge.

Durability

Medical supplies used throughout the patient’s journey must be designed for durability, with the ability to withstand usage over hours or days with a low margin or error of failure. Look for manufacturers that use high-quality materials and invest time and resources into product design, as opposed to cutting corners. For example, a blood pressure cuff that will travel with the patient from the operating room to the intensive care unit to the step down unit, must be built to withstand the rigors of transport and consistent use over an extended time period.

Comfort

Medical supplies that touch a patient’s body or come into close proximity during a patient’s entire stay must be not only durable, but also comfortable. When selecting products in this space, avoid hard plastics and opt for pliable materials. Also, look for manufacturers that offer a variety of options to meet individual patient needs, such as anatomical sizing.

For more information on how high-quality medical supplies and accessories can help your organization simultaneously address all three goals of the Triple Aim, read this Frost & Sullivan white paper: When Can a “Commodity” Advance Clinical Care? Achieving Triple Aim Goals With the Help of High-Quality, Innovative Medical Supplies. 

1. The IHI Triple Aim, http://www.ihi.org/engage/initiatives/TripleAim/Pages/default.aspx

 2. The IHI Triple Aim, http://www.ihi.org/engage/initiatives/TripleAim/Pages/default.aspx

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