Unlike with tracking expenses for products and capital within a health system, purchased services are difficult to quantify. Purchased services have no item number, are primarily fulfilled by local vendors, and are purchased off-PO 75-85% of the time. These factors make purchased services a complex area in which to manage budgets, to track expenses, and to implement compliance without the proper tools and best practices.
If purchased services expenses are not monitored regularly, there is no guarantee health systems will see the savings that were planned for following a rigorous vendor negotiation. This can be defeating for those who spent the time and energy finding a better deal and can ultimately be bad for business when expected savings are missing on the bottom line at year end.
Continual monitoring is the only way to ensure actual spend aligns with savings expectations. Purchased services expense tracking and monitoring is an ongoing process with plenty of pitfalls and common missteps. However, purchased services professionals can make the monitoring process more manageable and productive by knowing the pitfalls to look out for and by following the industry best practices (see blog: Monitoring Purchased Services Expenses. Part 2: Best Practices and How to Get Started).
From standard purchased services categories like laundry and linen or HVAC services to seasonal/geographic driven categories such as snow plow services, there are hundreds of categories and thousands of vendors that hospitals and health systems utilize daily. Every hospital and health system is different and has unique needs based on their location and the patients they serve. Aligning these particular needs with the unique factors that pertain to each purchased services category is challenging, and most of the work that is done during the RFP process can be daunting as well.
Depending on the complexity of the category, an RFP cycle can take four to six months from start to finish and require a time commitment of 5-20% from each sourcing professional during the bidding event (Robert J. Engel. Strategic Sourcing: A Step-By-Step Practical Model, The Procurement Centre). Insight from Valify’s database shows, a typical health system’s purchased services spend is spread out, on average, across 383 individual categories (some have spend across as many has 734 categories). These figures directly correlate to the number of vendors a health care provider has on contract.
It’s fair to say that sourcing professionals spend a significant amount of time working on RFPs – including conducting research specific to each category, defining award criteria, managing vendor communications, evaluating responses, analyzing impacts, and negotiating final terms. While each of these aspects could benefit from process improvement measures, our purchased services experts have put together a list of the top three tips for accelerating the RFP process while achieving better results.
One of the biggest difficulties healthcare purchased services professionals face is trying to negotiate more favorable vendor contracts for their hospital or health system. With hundreds of vendors spread across numerous departments and facilities, it is nearly impossible -- without the right data analytics platform -- to have enough time and information to build a persuasive case.