At our most recent HPRC member meeting, we were excited to host a presentation from Cristina Indiveri, Senior Director of Environmentally Preferred Sourcing for Vizient, discussing trends in environmentally preferred sourcing (EPS) from the perspective of a group purchasing organization. Our organizations share many common interests, including increasing industry collaboration and reducing the impact of the healthcare industry on the environment.
For those not already in the know, a group purchasing organization (GPO) is an entity that aggregates purchasing volume and uses that leverage to help hospitals realize savings and efficiencies via negotiated discounts with manufacturers, distributors and other vendors. 97% of hospitals utilize a GPO for purchasing, with volumes exceeding $200B annually.
Vizient is the largest healthcare performance improvement company in the country serving more than half of the nation’s hospitals and health systems. Through its GPO services, Vizient members save on supplies, equipment, devices and other services by utilizing agreements negotiated with manufacturers and distributors. They also offer programs that enable learning from peers and sharing best practices that help providers improve patient quality and safety outcomes.
Vizient supports efforts to improve human and environmental health via responsible purchasing, which includes factoring in not only sustainability, but safety, risk, and cost. One important way they do this is through the adoption of 23 standardized environmentally-preferred attributes, first established by Kaiser Permanente, which are focused on waste reduction, safer chemicals and resource conservation. Some example factors include product reusability, consumer-friendly recycling labels, recycled packaging content, and product recyclability. Vizient is the only health care GPO to adopt these attributes and includes reporting of these in their bid criteria which is then considered by the company and their member-led sourcing councils during the bid review process.
Combined with a catalog of approximately 500,000 products, these filterable data points empower member hospitals to understand the environmental impacts of products they are using or considering, and factor that into buying decisions. It’s a true partnership scenario, with member hospitals wanting transparency and standardization, suppliers wanting to be in front of hospitals, and Vizient working to connect the dots.
EPS in Action
One example of the value of Environmentally Preferred Sourcing (EPS) is found in the use of Bisphenol A (BPA.) BPA is widely used in patient-care products to produce strong, resilient, and transparent plastics. It can be found in nebulizers, injection pumps and medical tubing, among other things. However, studies show that premature infants that receive intensive care treatment (and thus exposure to multiple BPA-containing devices) are at an elevated risk of high exposure to BPA, linked to neurodevelopmental problems, obesity, altered immune function, and infertility. Thus, in purchasing for the NICU, it is vital to understand which products contain BPA and avoid their use in this context. EPS (and the EPP attributes Vizient includes in its contract catalog) make this possible, showing what a transparent and holistic approach to purchasing can do for patient care.
Focusing on the Future
Vizient is also looking to the future, charting the path forward for sustainable purchasing. Initiatives in progress include work around environmentally-preferred furniture, comparison features within its online database, and greater GPO industry collaboration and standardization. This standardization would help encourage more hospitals to consider EPS, which would increase the demand for products meeting those criteria. And since price is generally the biggest barrier hospitals face to implementing full-scale EPS, this kind of market pull will be vitally important to changing norms and getting broader buy-in across the industry which can help lower the costs of the products.
HPRC’s hope is that producers and suppliers can move towards increased transparency, that GPOs like Vizient can encourage these efforts, and that hospitals can continue to educate procurement teams on the positive impact EPS can have on their people, places, and profitability.