Four tips for saving money in your program

Within a group purchasing organization, work with specific vendors, suggests Terry Hawes, RN, vice president of Dallas-based National Surgical Care.

"There's probably a better price you'll be able to get, plus you're cutting out a lot of POs [purchase orders]," she says.

By creating relationships with a small number of vendors, you're in a position to say, "We use you a lot, we think we're paying too much for X," Hawes says. "That can give you many benefits in your purchasing power."

Consider these additional suggestions:

• Be aggressive with POs. Don't get complacent, Hawes advises. "Pay attention to what they're charging you," she says. Compare charges to the PO, Hawes says.

The person responsible for materials management should be aggressively monitoring rising costs. Cost increases should be communicated to the management team, she says.

When you're signing agreements for maintenance and repair, always use a PO for that agreement, she suggests. "It prevents a vendor from changing prices."

• Consider all costs. Consider hidden costs, Hawes says. Cameras are an example, she says. "If you buy autoclavable cameras, that eliminates the need for additional sterilizing equipment, and that can increase downtime," she says.

With all instruments and equipment, determine if you need additional equipment and time to clean it, Hawes says. "Look forward, and make sure there are no hidden costs down the line."

Make sure as few items as possible are in custom packs, Hawes says. The next step is to ensure you're getting the best prices for that reduced-size custom pack, she says.

• Carefully review wording of your cost contract. A "ton" of money from your surgery program is tied up in contracts, Hawes says. "Always look at the language," she says. "Once you sign it, it could cost you forever if you didn't look at it."

For example, you might to try to end a linen contract in two years and find out that you're purchasing inventory, Hawes warns. In linen contracts, also carefully review language regarding the monthly insurance fee for the linens that disappear, she says.