Savage Negotiator: Tips for Controlling Your Supply Costs

July 1, 2011

There are many vendors that provide supplies for our imaging needs. I doubt that any of them would object to accepting more money from you if you are willing to pay it. The task lies within you and your organization to find the savings.

 We are all in the same boat when it comes to the need to purchase supplies for our facilities.  The difference between us is the price that we pay for the same supplies, sometimes from the same supplier.  The way you navigate through this task can mean the difference between barely breaking even to turning a profit.

There are many vendors that provide supplies for our imaging needs.  I doubt that any of them would object to accepting more money from you if you are willing to pay it.  The task lies within you and your organization to find the savings.  Remember that the cost of items will change over the course of time.  You should make the effort to perform a yearly review all of your supply costs, and look for opportunities to reduce them whenever possible.

There are many possibilities that ultimately depend on the structure of your business.  The most obvious opportunity is to identify a GPO that you can participate with that will offer you the most savings for your business type.  Many of these organizations will even work with you to compare products and pricing.  They may even offer suggestions for substitutes that offer more savings.  The GPO will also offer the contact information for the vendors that accept their discounts, and will help you to structure your relationship with said vendors.

Other opportunities lie within bidding out your supplies, such as isotopes.  By seeking quotes from several vendors, you will ensure that you are receiving a cost effective rate. You can also have a direct comparison to the other items that affect the cost of the supplies such as delivery charges, markups, emergency calls, returns, etc.  By working directly with your radiologists and technologists, you may also identify an alternate product that will offer the same quality image at a reduced cost.

Some opportunities may be less obvious to you as the one in charge of purchasing items.  This example will require input from your staff.  Historically, imaging staff did not think twice about which supplies they grab for during their busy day.  In our current environment, fiscal responsibility is critical to the success of any operation.  Sharing this concern with your staff, and expecting buy in from them is the key.  Take some time to talk with the people using the products that you are purchasing.  Find out if there may be opportunities to consume less.  Ask the staff if a more cost efficient product would offer a similar result in their work flow.  Have information on alternate examples for them to review, and share with them the savings that might be appreciated.  Remember that there may be a bit of trial and error in this approach, so when substituting items, don’t buy the farm.  Purchase a small sample of the substitute first, so that the staff can evaluate it before making a large purchase.

We would all like to think that we are savage negotiators when it comes to pricing for our consumables, but in most cases, we are leaving money on the table.  Methodically analyzing your costs and opportunities to cut them is a necessary part of good business practice.  There are several organizations that can offer assistance with supplies, and in most cases, having someone review your purchasing from a different perspective will render results in the form of cost savings.  Just don’t wait too long, or you may be faced with the question of “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”. 

David Rushing, RT(R), MR, is operations manager for Medical Imaging Specialists. He has 19 years of experience specializing in radiology program development, implementation, and management. He has organized several mobile MRI programs for hospitals, served as hospital radiology department manager, and managed a full service free standing imaging center.