Published in: The Journal of Healthcare Contracting
Thirty-five-year-old RPC upping its game with technology
Yankee Alliance has been identifying opportunities for savings and high-quality care on behalf of its members since 1984. But the Andover, Massachusetts-based GPO does more than identify opportunities. It helps its members realize them, that is, make them happen.
Yankee Alliance comprises more than 16,000 members in 50 states. The majority of its acute care members are in the Northeast, while its non-acute members can be found throughout the country.
As a Premier owner, Yankee Alliance offers its members access to Premier national contracts. But it also offers its members Yankee aggregations, as well as a portfolio of committed contracts and Yankee-exclusive agreements, says Amy Campbell, chief administrative officer.
“Yankee negotiates with vendors to offer our members enhanced pricing based on our aggregated volume, which is currently over $4 billion annually,” she says. “We also negotiate other value-adds as part of our aggregations, such as rebates and clinical education.” Recently Yankee delivered to its members a $1.1 million savings opportunity and a growth rebate program for disposable non-sterile protective apparel.
Making contracts work
Yankee earns pricing concessions thanks to the resources it devotes to contract implementation. “We know our members very well; we’re close to them,” says Campbell. Yankee clinicians sit on members’ value analysis committees to help weigh the merit of potential contracts and product utilization opportunities. Clinicians guide members through the implementation process.
Yankee’s committed contracting program continues to respond to industry changes, says Campbell. “Yankee Alliance recognizes that in order to drive best-in-market price, moving market share and member contract commitment are key. We continue to evaluate opportunities and welcome open discussions with suppliers that can offer additional value through price and other offerings.” One example is a pharmacy wholesaler agreement, which was signed in 2017.
Yankee also negotiates contracts exclusively for Yankee members. Many of these contracts are regional in nature. For example, the GPO has purchased-services contracts to address members’ needs in staffing, plumbing, energy, IT consulting and other areas.
“Members are at the center of all we do,” says Campbell. The Partners Advisory Committee (PAC) is Yankee’s strategic committee and consists of supply chain representatives from the five largest Yankee owner/members. A number of sub-committees (e.g., lab, IT, pharmacy, foodservice, biomedical, nursing, and OR) provide feedback and support in the contract decision-making process.
“The PAC sets the tone of cooperation for the membership by ensuring the members are treated equally, and it serves as the voice of the larger group,” says Campbell. “It provides oversight of Yankee initiatives and provides input into the GPO’s strategic planning and direction,” she continues.
For some time, that strategic direction has led Yankee to be a source of actionable business intelligence for its members. “Upping our technology game is really important,” says Campbell.
Yankee’s SUITEview family of offerings includes:
- SUPPLY view, which focuses on contracting utilization, price benchmarking, conversions and standardization.
- CLINICAL view, which focuses on clinical utilization and value analysis.
- SERVICE view, which focuses on purchased-services contract analysis, benchmarking and best practices.
- PHARMACY view, which focuses on pharmacy utilization, cost impact and clinical implications of a particular drug or therapeutic class.
“Yankee Alliance members have a support team comprised of dedicated resources, contracting, analytics, and clinical subject matter experts that maximizes the value of the contract portfolio and uncovers hidden savings opportunities,” says Campbell. “These are provided through a service bureau model, where Yankee proactively runs member data on a monthly basis to highlight opportunities and pushes this information out to the membership.” Yankee Alliance’s Member Services and Clinical teams assist with implementation.
In addition, Yankee Alliance uses Blue.Point ( www.bluepointscs.com ) to give health systems visibility into the products they use on their patients, and how they use them. It can help members (and non-Yankee subscribers) answer such questions as:
- “How do my hospital’s product usage and clinical practices compare to other hospitals?”
- “What are the industry-accepted best practices and how do my hospital’s practices compare?”
- “How do we generate a pipeline of savings opportunities for our value analysis teams to work on?”
- “What is the step-by-step roadmap to implementing change?”
- “How do I track implementation progress over the short term and long term?”
In March 2018, Cathy Spinney – who has been with Yankee Alliance for 28 years – was named president and CEO. Under her leadership, Yankee Alliance continues to transform its technology platform and invest in the human resources required to assist its members implementing savings opportunities.
Says Campbell, the differentiators for Yankee Alliance are – and will continue to be – the following:
- Voice . “As a member-owned organization, our members are at the center of everything we do and drive strategic decisions through our Board of Managers, Partners Advisory Committee and our departmental committees.”
- Service . “Providing members with inside account support, field resources, specialists (such as clinicians and pharmacists) and an analytical support team to turn data into actionable information to implement savings.”
- Leverage . “Combined volume of over $4 billion, working together as an Alliance.”
Clinical product utilization allows hospitals to see the full picture of how products affect patient care and outcomes, as well as how various features of products can increase the cost of care without providing evidence-based value, says Amy Campbell, chief administrative officer, Yankee Alliance. Here are two examples.
- Patient cleansing . A provider uses benchmarking to get the best price for pre-packaged bathing products. However, based on clinical product utilization and peer benchmarking, the provider finds it is using a pre-packaged bath two to three times more often than other facilities around the country. By categorizing products the way they are clinically used, the provider views other options for patient cleansing, as well as how cleansing practices vary within the hospital, across the health system, and across the country. The provider also applies best-practices research to guide nursing practice to prevent hospital-acquired infections and maintain skin integrity while using the most cost-effective method for the patient.
- External patient warming (i.e., forced-air warming products for the OR) . A provider gets the best price for warming products, but benchmarking shows that caregivers are using two products per patient when guidelines state that warming products are not needed for every procedure. Further, forced-air gowns often get in the way during surgery and are discarded, because the patient needs a new one in the post-op phase. Using Blue.Point, the provider sees how the increased usage and product mix affect total cost of care. Using peer benchmarking and clinical evidence, the provider gains insight into alternative practices and data-driven practice for cost savings and improved outcomes.
This article ran in the June 2019 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Contracting.