The Healthcare Hub

How a Virtual Item Master Can Modernize Government Healthcare

Thursday, October 19, 2023

From enhancing visibility of the contract portfolio to reshaping purchasing strategies and decision-making, explore how the virtual item master (VIM) can help modernize the government healthcare supply chain in terms of value, accuracy and strategic advantage. 


Table of Contents 

  1. Virtual item master: A single source of truth 

  1. The benefits of a virtual item master 

  1. Keeping the virtual item master accurate 

  1. Shifting the advantage 



1. The virtual item master: A single source of truth  

The concept of a virtual item master is not new to healthcare supply chain, but the pace at which government agencies are working to create, implement and operationalize VIMs shows how challenging it is to properly build one and start realizing its value.  

The VIM is a single source of truth for item and price data that can feed clinical, financial and operational workstreams. The VIM also increases the visibility of the contract portfolio so requesters do not have to search spreadsheets or disparate legacy systems to determine which contract items they can purchase.  

Limiting visibility and access to a specific set of spend categories – typically, only clinical products – is an outdated concept and creates barriers to improving spend-under management. Access to all spend categories in a single platform is critical to driving compliance and utilization as well as reducing friction in the purchasing process.  



2. The benefits of a virtual item master 

Creating and managing a VIM that follows industry best practices and allows requesters to interact seamlessly is essential. This modernized platform should feature a simple UI and UX and empower requesters with relevant, accurate information to support their purchasing decisions. 

 A well-managed, enriched and harmonized VIM with contract pricing provides the ability to shape demand at the point of requisition, extending supply chain’s control across an expanding continuum of care (acute, non-acute, clinics, offices, direct to patient). It also provides the ability to: 

  • Predict demand based on user patterns and clinical activity. 

  • Match spend to diversity and ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives.

  • Increase transparency to the contract portfolio. 

  • Operationalize the contract portfolio. 

  • Support standardization and syndication of line-item data to clinical subsystems and business processes. 

  • Share item attributes, metadata and prices with downstream systems and work processes.



3. Keeping the virtual item master accurate 

The VIM is not a static database of item and price information – rather, it is dynamic and requires close management to keep it accurate and up to date with new agreements and changes to current ones. Organizations that have a large number of contracts should store them in a system that not only can manage large data sets but can also interface with a front-end purchasing system in a seamless and automated way. 

The VIM is typically a large data set for most organizations, but that does not mean that all the contract line items in the VIM need to be available to the requester for purchasing. If you can monitor and predict demand based on user patterns and clinical activity, you can determine the right timing to publish a contract.  

For example, the VIM may have multiple contracts for the same item, but on different agreements. In this case, the supply chain team can work with clinicians to determine which contract not only meets its needs from a clinical perspective, but also which agreement supports the organization’s strategic goals and objectives pertaining to rebates, tiered pricing incentives, volume commitments or simply the one with the lowest prices. This type of flexibility and control enables supply chains to be nimble and responsive to shortages and other disruptions in real time without giving up on their strategic goals and objectives



4. Shifting the advantage  

Government agencies that embrace the concept of a VIM and work with their acquisition teams to create processes that operationalize it will enable their organizations to shift the advantage to the buy side of the equation and give them a better position at the negotiation table when the contract is up for renewal.  

Using the right system to support and access the VIM creates a gateway for data flowing into your supply chain and the broker for perfect orders flowing out of it. Managing and improving this process and the data is the gateway to modernizing the supply chain. 


Visit to learn how GHX offers federal agencies the power of the leading healthcare supply chain solutions to deliver better care at a lower cost. 

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Ted Dagnal

Strategic Account Director

Find out more about GHX's government solutions