August 8, 2003

New supplies purchasing system provides business intelligence

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Dr. Aaron Milstone examines Mohammed Aziz, who endured a mustard gas attack in 1988 in Iraq. He he has been treated at VUMC since 2001. Photo by Dana Johnson

New supplies purchasing system provides business intelligence

In a move that effects some 1,400 users across the medical center, VUMC is preparing to switch out its system for purchasing, handling, requisition and charging of patient care supplies. The switch from Nova Materials Management to a new system brings several important benefits and caps a series of major upgrades over the past three years in VUMC purchasing and materials management.

“The current system cannot be expanded to serve the new children’s hospital,” said Lynn Brooks, manager, health information systems projects.

What especially excites administrators is that the new system supports a new level of business intelligence, Brooks said. Continuous connection to the general ledger will allow richer, more timely data on supply utilization and cost. Periodic reports will be automated, and instead of having to wait for month-end reports, managers will be able to track supply utilization daily. Management of purchasing contracts and participation in multi-institution supply utilization benchmarking initiatives will be easier.

For more efficient inventory control, the system will allow materials management staff for the first time to use bar code hand held devices to count non-chargeable supplies.

The new system’s user interface is based on the point-and-click Windows operating environment, more familiar to newer computer users than the current system’s somewhat outmoded MS-DOS-based text driven interface.

The actual brand name of the new system is Pathways Materials Management, but because that name invites confusion with clinical pathways (care plans) and the PathworX system developed at Vanderbilt to help standardize inpatient care, at VUMC the new system will go by the name Materials Management.

The switch is planned to occur in early September for most users, including VUH Patient Care Services and the materials management staff of Medical Center Support Services. Systems Support Services will arrange on-line training for VUH nurses in August, and on each unit they will cultivate certain expert users who will make themselves available to help fellow users.

Medical Center Support Services is developing a two-day training program for its materials management staff, who use the system far more intensively than do nurses.

The Cardiac Catheterization Lab and Radiology will delay switching until procedure-based supplies charging becomes available in the new system. The switch will also be delayed for some 70 staff members in the School of Medicine and other administrative areas who use a separate program called Orion to order supplies.

Medical Center Support Services originally served only inpatient units, but in an efficiency move they have expanded in recent years to provide materials management for the clinics, Operative Services, Radiology, and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. Last year the service introduced the first automated supply cabinets on inpatient units.

Unlike at other medical centers, where departments tend to maintain separate purchasing lists, at VUMC over the past three years Medical Center Support Services has created an item master file, consolidating price and cost data for some 50,000 items purchased by groups across the medical center.

In parallel with the creation of the item master, the service worked with various clinical areas to pursue further supplies standardization.