Q&A with the Operations Supervisor of a Large Independent Orthopedic Implantable Device Distributor
“[T]he service we provide to our customers is becoming more proactive instead of reactive. It’s a good thing!”
Tami B., has been an Operations Supervisor for one of the world’s largest orthopedic companies for over 20 years. For Tami, getting both the operations teams and the sales force to securely and effectively communicate business needs has always been a challenge. Reps used various methods and calendars to manage their cases and had no systematic way to view or request inventory. They relied on Tami for that information, and she had to consult multiple disparate programs to answer even the most basic of questions.
“I would have to use several systems to find requested information or to ensure we were keeping accurate internal records.”
Sales associates would often communicate usage electronically, via text message or email, or manually, via sticker sheets and handwritten faxes, even after her territory implemented a change to their process of usage submission for the sake of HIPAA compliance.
“Communication of the reps’ needs was usually handled by word-of-mouth. The rep would verbally tell surgical coordinators what he needed for the case. This led to a lot of miscommunication between these guys. It also put a ton of pressure on both the rep (to make sure he communicated everything) and the coordinator (to make sure he ‘read between the lines’ and was getting everything the rep needed).”
Tami remembers being on the phone constantly with her sales associates. Not only was this a huge time burden for Tami and her team, but it was also extremely reactive and created an environment susceptible to human error. One misspoken or illegible number or letter could have dire consequences for the patient and the business.
In 2010, Tami’s corporate executive team decided the entire country would adopt a new surgery scheduling and inventory management platform offered by the team at Movemedical.
The solution would be a complete system with many useful features:
- Surgery Scheduler & Calendar
- Inventory Requesting & Sourcing Tool
- Shipping Optimizer
- Usage Capture
- Billing Portal
The next step would be to get everyone to use it. To help her territory with system adoption, Tami attended a training bootcamp, where she learned how to manage inventory in the new platform.
“I was one of the fortunate ones in that I was able to attend a ‘Bootcamp.’ This training made all the difference. I was ready when we went live, so the transition was pretty seamless.”
When Tami returned to her office, she trained her office team on the new system and helped to coordinate the training for her sales force. Before Tami’s distributorship went live, her entire operations team and every salesperson on her team received extensive system training.
It wasn’t long before Tami realized that just about everything she needed was visible in this new system and she could access that information much faster than before. She also began to notice that she was receiving fewer phone calls throughout the day. She knew that the sales force now had visibility to their surgeries and could access much of their own information, but she hadn’t expected the results would be so immediate:
“[The hardest part was] getting your mind wrapped around the fact that the process you have been doing for years is changing. People don’t like change; however, once you open yourself up to the possibilities and power of the system, it becomes fairly easy.“
This was true even for her sales force, who were often extremely busy and were notorious for being creatures of habit. The reduction in unnecessary communication wasn’t the only positive outcome, but with their new tool, the sales force is now able to securely communicate surgery needs and usage, all through its HIPAA-compliant platform.
“Now with the preference cards and the ease of request, reps are able to ask for all the items they need with a few keystrokes. This has reduced time and elevated accountability for whose responsibility it is to anticipate the surgeon’s’ needs.”
All of this information is automatically linked to the appropriate case. External files, such as signature sheets, x-rays, templates, and other file types, can also be stored within each case.
“I really like how easy it is to link additional information into a case. Our office scans and stores all the ‘backup’ paperwork that we accumulate when working up a case. This makes the system the ‘one-stop shop’ for ALL our internal information.”
Tami was recently asked what she sees for the future of orthopedic inventory management. She expects the industry to continue moving towards a leaner model approach, where measurements are taken to limit the number of implants that need to be sent for each surgery.
“In 20 years I have seen the industry move more and more to a ‘surgery in a box’ model. Every measure is being taken to anticipate the surgeon’s need before the actual event and make sure it is measured and delivered to the facility. This is progress from the ‘shotgun’ model that was common before. In the shotgun model, tons of resources were used to anticipate a doc’s needs. Now, the service we provide to our customers is becoming more proactive instead of reactive. It’s a good thing!”
She feels that there will be more energy spent in anticipating specific surgery needs and that there will be a shift in how hospitals, sales reps, and surgeons interact with their suppliers. Tami believes that she and her territory now possess the right tools and knowledge to help the distributor adapt and succeed in the ever-changing environment of orthopedic healthcare.