Hospitals set to order supplies online

Two hospitals in Toronto have signed on with Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX) Canada to participate in a pilot project that will bring equipment suppliers and healthcare providers together.

The Hospital for Sick Children and Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centres will begin piloting GHXs’ browser based exchange system that will enable the hospitals to order medical supplies online.

“We’re using BEA’s Web Logic Server and we’ve developed most of the functionality in Java. Vignette is doing the content and template management and Oracle is our back-end database,” said Rammi Gill, the director of professional services at GHX Canada in Mississauga, Ont. Gill added that while the hospitals in Ontario are going into the testing phase, there are currently over 30 hospitals in the U.S. who are already running on the system.

The pilot is projected to begin in the fall, and GHX is currently working on the types of systems they intend to use. “Sick Kids is looking at a SAP system. Part of what we’re trying to avoid is the double keying of a purchase order,” said Gary Hutton the general manager for GHX Canada. He added that integration into their legacy systems is a factor. He said the system has been built for the health care industry and is looking to branch off into clinics and doctors offices.

To date, the hospitals have been impressed with GHX Canada, and its willingness to work with the organizations on what their needs are.

“[GHX was] the only organization that approached us and said ‘we need to understand your processes and what you’re doing so that we can decide on a product that will suit (your) needs,'” said Sarah Friesen, director of supply chain services at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. She said the current system for ordering medical supplies remains very paper-intensive and results in a lot of double handling of requisitions.

She said Sunnybrook expects the pilot to last between two and three months, and that the CATH Lab has been initially chosen for the pilot. “We chose this (CATH Lab) because GHX has a robust base of suppliers built up for products we buy into the Lab.” She said the trial would be valuable because those users in the Lab will be requisitioning over the system, bypassing the paper flow. Friesen said the benefits to purchasing online are numerous. It will save staff time on patient care by being able to go to the computer, pull up a product and send it off instantly, making the online system more efficient as supplies will arrive faster. Also, she added that accuracy will improve, because sometimes, written requisitions are inadvertently filled in incorrectly, which means the product has to be re-ordered.

While Sunnybrook is anticipating a short pilot phase, the Hospital for Sick Children expects a longer pilot period.

Steven Lackey said the pilot will likely begin in October and last from eight months to one year. The senior project manager for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto said they are hoping to create as much efficiency as possible. “This will allow our end users to go right to the catalogues of the individual companies through GHX and browse directly to see what kind of pricing they need and prescription information,” he said.

Lackey added that the hospital would ultimately have an integrated, fully automated system to its back-end legacy system.

He said their current system follows a more manual process, and that when other hospitals see the benefits of this system, they would likely follow suit. The long-term goal, he said, is to integrate GHX into their financial system.

“We’ll be able to have requisitions (and) a shopping basket of items to go through for approval internally before it’s turned into a purchase order.”