The Healthcare Hub

Stepping Up to Item Master Consolidation

posted by: Ryan Schaefer
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

By Ryan M. Schaefer, MBA, Manager of MMIS, Supply Chain, Avera Health
The single biggest challenge we’ve faced in Supply Chain at Avera Health is maintaining five separate item masters across our integrated delivery network (IDN). While we have made tremendous progress in consolidating our contracting to the point where we no longer have contracts in five different regions at five different price points, we still must update and maintain product and contract data in five separate databases, which isn’t terribly effective. 

As we look to the future and work to find ways to operate in a more efficient and cost effective manner, we are setting the stage to roll our five item masters into one. Like most healthcare organizations, we must gain the efficiencies of operating as a true IDN if we are to survive going forward.

As part of our broader, organization-wide effort to consolidate operations and finances, we launched a master data management strategy last year. This has served as a steppingstone to our item master consolidation, enabling us to clean up and standardize the data across our five item masters so that the transition will be much easier.

We’ve probably made 250,000 changes within our five different item masters over the past year and the buyers would have had to make those changes manually while placing orders or after the fact when dealing with exceptions if we didn’t have this new global approach to data management. Using a virtual item master, we receive suggestions of product or catalog number changes relevant to our organization, review the changes and then quickly approve those items and have them scripted back into our system so that all five item masters are updated efficiently and effectively.

Now that we’ve got clean and accurate data within our item masters, we’ve exploring the path forward to consolidation. We are currently researching best pratices from IDNs across the country to determine if we need to build a new item master from scratch or if we can use one of our existing item masters and have all of our facilities map to that. What we’ve learned to date is that there’s no silver bullet - no single best way to do it. There are many discussions to be had and decisions to be made in the coming months. As we move forward, I’ll share updates on our progress and lessons learned through posts on The Healthcare Hub.