Making Care More Affordable—Ross DeHovitz, M.D., Trish Barrett, R.N.
Ross DeHovitz, M.D. (Pediatrician, Palo Alto Medical Foundation): As a pediatrician, my day is a balance between the well check-ups and the sick visits. Part of our job is to be able to provide high-quality vaccines at the most affordable price. One of the things we explored was finding a way of purchasing supplies in a more collaborative fashion. One of the supplies we realized we all purchase in common is vaccine.
Before, when we were buying as separate clinics, [vaccine] manufacturers would charge a higher rate. But when you buy as a huge group, you can negotiate directly with the manufacturer about what the price should be and they’ll give you a better deal. For our patients, that means they’re getting the same high-quality care at a better price. By centralizing our vaccine purchases, we were able to save over $5 million. And this is all because Sutter doctors, Sutter offices and Sutter hospitals are working together to help us obtain that for our patients.
Trish Barrett, R.N. (Regional Director of Supply Chain, Sutter Health West Bay Region): Just like any family that has to be concerned about what they buy, we at Sutter Health have to be very conscious and concerned about buying things at the best possible price. A good example of a simple cost-saving project that we took on was blood pressure cuffs. This is something that really, literally, touches nearly every single patient we see—in many cases on every single visit. So, the real art and science is getting the best possible quality for the lowest possible price.
One might ask, “How much quality is there in a blood pressure cuff?” For patients, it's the comfort and feel on their skin. It's how easily and well the cuffs wrap around the arm to give you a good reading. And we want to make sure that [manufacturers] provide a full breadth of [product] line—even the little ones, for our little tiny patient populations, as well. We [previously] had six brands across the [Sutter Health] system. We were able to reduce that to one supplier that could provide us with everything we needed. That one project, alone, saved us a quarter-million dollars. Now, that money can be used for something else that our patients need. I'm Trish Barrett, and this is one way Sutter Health is making care more affordable for our patients.