It was at a conference where I first saw AdviseInc and their Price benchmarking tool. £1m later in savings, their tools are embedded in all we do.
I developed a real interest in medical and clinical procurement when I took up a buying role nearly 20 years ago, and it’s all I’ve ever worked on since joining the NHS. I was then drafted into a national project to look at common and repetitive spend across the whole of Wales, identifying potential savings if all health boards were achieving the same lowest possible price for specific products. And that’s why I’m heavily involved in benchmarking to this day.
I manage two teams; one in Cardiff that focuses on generic consumable products used across different hospitals, and a clinical consumable team in North Wales that covers specialist categories such as orthopaedic implants, cardiac products and pathology. The teams have the same overall objectives, although each area has different targets. Contract delivery is clearly important, but savings is what we’re predominantly judged against.
We used to have access to a separate tool, but there was only a small pool of about 25 organisations using it… so you weren’t getting a proper benchmark across the service. You’d often use it looking for a benchmark and it would deliver no results, probably because the other organisations weren’t using those products. You were then having to rely on your own network of contacts across the NHS to respond within your timeframe. It was frustrating.
Also, we’d regularly find anomalies with the data. The system would give you a potential savings opportunity for several health boards in Wales. But once you did a little digging into that data, the responses would turn out to be inaccurate. When you start doubting the validity of the data you’re getting out of a system, your team soon stops wanting to use it.
When we heard that AdviseInc was developing a similar tool, we were hopeful it would give us a proper benchmark as to how organisations across the NHS were performing price-wise. AdviseInc gave a demo at a conference explaining their plan and how the system would work, and it seriously impressed our senior management team. We instantly knew this was something NHS Wales needed to be involved in.
As soon as we subscribed to the tool, we set up our own benchmarking team. We’ve got two dedicated members working within the tool; one who runs the reports and responds to ad-hoc requests that land in the system for us, the other who picks out the top 100 lines by price each month to show where the biggest opportunities are in relation to the savings that are available (via further negotiations with suppliers). It points us in the right direction, showing us where we can find better prices for certain items. It’s then up to us to do our own research, whether that’s further benchmarking with ad-hoc requests or speaking to the organisations who are getting these better prices. This allows us to challenge a supply base if we think we should be getting a better price than what we currently are.
The previous system we had access to wasn’t as sophisticated as the AdviseInc tool. My teams now use it every day. They get on very well with the support desk, and rarely experience the issues we had before because there’s around 250 organisations using it too.
Since we went live with AdviceInc’s price benchmarking system, we recently broke the £1m barrier for savings that are attributed to using the tool itself. It’s been extremely successful. However, not all our teams utilised the tool from the outset. To encourage them to use the system more, one team created a league table during the World Cup. The competition was based on the number of requests put through to the benchmarking officer against the financial return and gain that was achieved by the health board during that time. Whoever scored the most won a prize. It was a great gimmick, but we suspected usage would trail off once the World Cup was over. But it didn’t. It’s carried on. We’re constantly getting reports and requests through. It’s really grabbed the imagination of the team and they all love using the tool. In fact, it works very well for NHS Wales. We get a lot out of it.
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