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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Weathering the Storm: Improvising Procurement with New York Presbyterian

posted by: Mannie Waldman

When Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area in late October, hospitals were not spared from the storm’s wrath. Many lost power and some were flooded and damaged. There’s very little that anyone can do in the face of a natural disaster, and it’s difficult to keep hospitals – especially those located extremely close to the coastline – up and running during these events. If we can find a silver lining in the aftermath of the storm, it’s that we were able to do our part to keep New York Presbyterian Hospital stocked with critically needed supplies during this time.

In a hospital that has lost power, getting critical departments (like clinical) running again is the immediate priority. But what is often forgotten is that clinical cannot operate fully without supplies. When New York Presbyterian lost power during the storm, the purchasing department knew it had to keep going, even though it was not first on the list to get its systems back online. The hospital purchasing department called GHX and explained that it was on the waiting list to get its system live, but needed a way to continue purchasing supplies. A hospital of New York Presbyterian’s size often needs to place orders hourly and have suppliers deliver goods every two to three hours. To lose the ability to place supply orders for hours would have seriously impacted patient care.

New York Presbyterian is a unique case because it uses a hosted materials-management system that’s housed offsite. Because it is not housed at the hospital, it was not impacted by the power outage and was able to create orders – even when the rest of the hospital’s equipment was offline and unable to get purchase orders to GHX. Without systems operating at the hospital, the team needed a way to transmit orders to GHX so they could be placed and fulfilled.

What the hospital team did have running was email. By using email, the team was able to download its supply orders into a file and email them to GHX.  And here’s where we got lucky again – another unique quality of New York Presbyterian is the cleanliness of its data. Typically a provider’s system must do a lot of data conversion to clean the data before it can be entered into the exchange, but the data provided directly by the hospital team was clean and accurate enough that it was able to drop it directly into GHX. Based on my experience, I’d guess there’s a very small percentage of U.S. hospitals that would be able to provide data clean enough for this to occur.

After the four-person team figured out how to get the data from the hospital and submit it directly into GHX for processing, the process only required one person from the GHX team to receive the hourly emails from the hospital and drop them into the exchange for validation.

In some ways, the stars aligned for New York Presbyterian’s procurement department during Hurricane Sandy. The procurement team sent hourly emails for about five hours until its internal systems were powered back on. In such a rare event, the hospital team was thrilled that it lost such little time during the severe storm. It was also excited to be able to come up with a disaster-recovery process for the team. Up until this day, we had not accounted for a potential hurricane in the area, and with this success we learned that not only can our team improvise to help providers in need during a disaster, but we can do it quickly and successfully.