When it comes to purchasing medical supplies, small private neurology practices simply don’t have the negotiating power that larger medical institutions have. That’s why private practice manager David Evans decided to go in with some colleagues to develop a neurology-specific group purchasing organization (GPO).
“We wanted to have a solid and really broad voice for the community,” Evans said about organizing NeuroNet GPO. “Our main goal is working as an intermediary between ourselves and the manufacturers. So, now rather than me, with my 12 doctors, I now represent 500 providers. And we’re able to go to them and say, ‘Look, we have 500 providers that are willing to buy your product across the whole country. And we want to have a competitive price.’”
This move was made before COVID-19, and NeuroNet GPO has proven invaluable during the pandemic.
Neurology practices have considerably more costs to contend with today, from additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, cleaning supplies, and automatic hand sanitizers, to huge price hikes for medical supplies like needles and syringes. Evans said his practice, Texas Neurology, has seen monthly costs rise about $3,000 to $5,000 because of COVID-19.
Many of these items have also gotten harder to come by, with supply companies setting allotments, limiting the amount of any one item a practice can buy. This happened most notably on PPE, but also on other supplies related to COVID-19 patient care and vaccine development.
Of particular concern for Evans’ practice were infusion supplies, including saline, and things like syringes for the Botox injections.
“We had to make a lot of changes and find new venues to obtain regular supplies, even beyond the PPE stuff,” he said.
Private practices like his are not alone in dealing with these issues, but their small size puts them at a distinct disadvantage to larger hospitals and university-based practices. This was what Todd Barnes, clinical business administrator of the departments of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, told us.
“The best thing is if your practice is part of a GPO,” Barnes said. “They aggregate a bunch of people and you can get discounts.”
He said NeuroNet GPO is one of the few neurology-specific GPOs.
NeuroNet GPO has become even more valuable since the pandemic started, but Evans said it is not the only solution. He also recommends practice managers explore options on Amazon and make use of their networks.
“I rely heavily on my colleagues for ideas outside of my own bubble—finding other vendors, seeing what others are doing in their communities,” he said. “Early on, some of us went in together and got a big order from China. I don’t know that we would have gotten through it without having those collegial and network connections.”
Special thanks to David A. Evans, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Texas Neurology, in Dallas, Texas, for his insights on this issue.
Special thanks to Todd Barnes, MBA, Clinical Business Administrator Departments of Neurology/Neurosurgery at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for his insights on this issue.