Internet sites track purchasing

Managers report other advantages of e-commerce

E-commerce companies such as esurg.com automatically track how much you’re ordering and what your inventory status is, reports Wesley Gilliland, administrator of Fish Pond Medical Plaza, which includes Fish Pond Surgery Center, in Waco, TX. Gilliland’s current computer system can’t track such information. His e-commerce site, however, can go as far as to break down his ordering into cost centers.

"You have the ability to track: How much orthopedic supplies and equipment am I ordering compared to urology? What are my cost volumes there?" he says. "By having those cost centers, I can take that information, apply it against what I’m earning in those areas, and so determine which areas are being the most profitable for the center."

You can accomplish those same goals by tracking information by hand, Gilliland acknowledges, "but you can imagine how much longer it will take."

Also, vendors often are willing to provide you with this information, but it takes several days, he points out. "With esurg, I can go on-line, set up reporting in a way that they way I want it, and have it in a matter of minutes, Gilliland says. "I can change the way it’s set up, so I can manipulate the reports so the data are organized in a way that works for me." With other companies, if the information isn’t organized in a helpful way, the company has to run an entirely new report, which takes additional time, he says.

The e-commerce company provides valuable information when it’s time to renegotiate prices with your vendor, says Erin Duffy, RN, director of the Ambulatory Surgery Center of Greater New York in Bronx. "The price, the quantity, how much you’ve ordered is right there in front of you," she says.

When Gilliland’s center opened last fall, it joined a national buying group. He has been dissatisfied with the pricing and the service. "You don’t know the price of items you’ve ordered," he says. "You may think it’s one price, but when it comes in, there’s been a cost increase. You see it when you get the bill." In comparison, e-commerce provides the cost of the item on the screen, Gilliland says.

An advantages with e-commerce is that ordering can be handled by a clerk, which automatically reduces your cost when compared to the cost of having a nurse handle the purchasing, Duffy reports. If a question arises, the clerk or manager can contact the vendor representative directly, she says. "You just make sure the clerk is overseen by someone who knows the surgery schedule and the needs of surgeons — but that’s a quick glance," Duffy says. At a surgery center, managers have to move the high-volume surgeons and the nurses, who are your highest expense, in and out, Duffy says. "A clerk can stay at the end and finish up orders," she says.

As a caveat, some sources say there might be a potential drawback to ordering on-line, at least initially. In some cases, you might have to pay for the production of the item, the cost of the distributor, plus the additional cost of having a third party: the e-commerce company. "I think that is a potential downside," Gilliland acknowledges. However, in many cases, the e-commerce company is working directly with the manufacturer, so there’s not an additional level of charge, he says.