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Work Smarter, Not Harder: Advancing the Healthcare Supply Chain with Contract Automation

Key takeaways:

  • Healthcare supply chain teams are working to automate highly repeatable, manual and burdensome processes for greater efficiency, productivity and cost savings.
  • One key area ripe for automation is contract activations.
  • Through collaboration and co-innovation with hospitals across the nation, Nexera’s AI-enabled robotic process automation (RPA) solution is allowing teams to save precious time – and drive rapid synchronization, accuracy and employee satisfaction.

Increased labor costs (46 percent) and labor availability (39 percent) are among the top overall operational/financial concerns for U.S. healthcare providers – with 1 in 4 calling these factors the largest risks for healthcare supply chains over the next year, according to Premier’s 2023 Resiliency survey.

Increasingly, healthcare supply chain teams are working to automate highly repeatable, manual and burdensome processes for greater efficiency, boosted productivity and cost savings. What's taking up the most time? What’s tedious, inefficient and most frustrating for our staff and teams? We don’t want to devote valuable resources to clicking the same things over and over again.

One key area ripe for automation is contract activations.

Research suggests that the average hospital has more than 1,200 group purchasing organization (GPO) and local contracts in its portfolio and activates contract pricing for more than 40,000 new line items every six months.

With a large volume of contracts, frequency of updates and changes, and new activations and additional contracts executed to cover new products, transforming this traditionally time-consuming, cumbersome process can deliver real operational and financial benefits for healthcare organizations.

Enter AI-enabled robotic process automation.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that can emulate human actions interacting with digital systems and software.

RPA can do repetitive and lower-value work, like logging into applications and systems, moving files and folders, extracting, copying and inserting data, filling in forms, and completing routine analyses and reports.

When coupled with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems like machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), RPA can expand its ability to handle cognitive processes like understanding documents with semi-structured or unstructured data.

This is where Nexera’s RPA Solution comes in.

Nexera, a consolidated subsidiary of Premier, is a leading healthcare consulting firm that serves hospitals and health systems by advancing supply chain improvement and transformation.

Nexera has developed an RPA solution that helps activate Premier GPO contracts quickly and efficiently – acting as a digital employee to go through the tedious steps of repeatedly activating new contracts.

When submitting an Excel file indicating the contracts and facilities to activate, the solution automates the steps in Premier’s Supply Chain Advisor® digital contract platform to create a new activation for each of the contracts.

The tool has the flexibility to include contract tier information, comments and price, effective date for all activations, as well as choosing to move distributors, and adding a final approval if desired.

Automated capabilities include:

  • Specifying multiple entity codes for the activation of a single contract.
  • Adding attachments to your activations.
  • Emailing all end-users their respective, approved contract summaries.

Reaping the benefits of RPA.

One large health system recently used Nexera’s RPA tool to activate more than 800 contracts and saved more than 30 hours of manual data entry.

“If you think about any healthcare organization out there, you can pull and see your activations over the trailing 12 months, apply similar math and figure out how many hours you could save using the tool. And then apply that to your average manual labor hourly rate for what you're paying to get this done today. The Nexera RPA tool has been incredible for us in what it’s been able to do on just one process.” – health system operations leader

Nexera’s RPA solution enables contract stakeholders to automate what has historically been a highly manual process, helping to drive rapid synchronization, accuracy and employee satisfaction. RPA can also ramp up quickly to match workload peaks and respond to big demand spikes.

“Since I started using this tool, I’ve been able to reduce the time needed to activate new contracts by 95 percent.” – health system operations leader

Across industries, executives are seeing the significant benefits of RPA:

  • 63 percent say it’s a major component in digital transformation.
  • 60 percent agree RPA enables people to focus on more strategic work and 57 percent say it reduces manual errors.
  • 92 percent agree RPA has ‘met or exceeded expectations’ for better compliance.
  • 57 percent say RPA increases employee engagement.

A complex and often untapped area for modernization, a now heightened sense of urgency around contract activations and management exists due to the costs and inefficiencies it adds for providers – and to healthcare overall.

Accurate contracts and pricing mean more cost-effective healthcare.

And when AI-enabled technology can tackle these types of repetitive, high-volume tasks, humans are freed to focus on the things they do best and enjoy more – innovating, collaborating, creating and pursuing high-impact work. Organizations, in turn, are rewarded with higher productivity, efficiencies, cost savings and resilience.

Healthcare providers require innovative solutions to fill today’s labor gap and enable the next generation of the supply chain workforce.

With teams asked to do more with less, AI, RPA and other advanced technology solutions have transformative potential for the healthcare supply chain, including the ability to sift and parse through mountains of data, optimize healthcare purchasing, streamline tasks and workflows, mitigate supply shortages and more.

A trusted workforce enhancement partner with supply chain expertise specific to healthcare can help a hospital’s team pinpoint needs and leverage the appropriate technology for greatest value – regardless of where an organization may be in its digitization journey.

With more than 125 subject matter experts across strategy, contracting/sourcing, inventory management, value analysis, technology, analytics and more, Nexera’s partnership model delivers actionable and sustainable solutions to help providers implement meaningful long-term change.

For More:

  • Schedule a demo on Nexera’s RPA solution today.
  • RPA is one of many ways Nexera and Premier are co-innovating with hospitals to tackle key challenges in healthcare – learn more.

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