Tackling Physicians' Top 3 Challenges

December 20, 2018
Female doctor with female patient-450X290
Physician clinics consistently face new challenges while having to deal with ongoing ones. This requires doctors and their staffs to focus on the business side of the clinic as much as on delivering healthcare. 

Oftentimes, physician offices lack the time and resources to overcome challenges on their own. They need a trusted source with experience and proven solutions to help, which is where group purchasing organizations (GPOs) like Provista can play a key role. GPOs work with industry-leading suppliers and some offer private label products to help physicians solve their most critical problems. 

Three of the most pressing pain points physicians currently face—and areas where GPOs can help—are:

  • Product shortages, including pharmaceuticals.
  • Personnel shortages, including nurses.
  • Compensating for reimbursement changes resulting from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).


Physicians and nurses must have the necessary products and prescription drugs to treat patients. While the Vizient 2018 Drug Price Forecast reveals that pharmaceutical shortages have improved compared to three years ago, they’re still a problem. Shortages can put patients at risk, delay the healing process or create a medical crisis. 

“There are many reasons for shortages, but most are caused by recalls, quality issues, a minimal number of suppliers, a shortage of raw materials, thin margins in generic-drug manufacturing that resulted in some companies getting out of the business and natural disasters impacting manufacturing,” says Amy Snow, senior director, sales and business development, for Provista. 

For example, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in the fall of 2017, it destroyed a manufacturer of the sodium chloride/saline solution that’s used in IVs. The saline solution replenishes fluids due to dehydration and is used for other medical purposes. More than a year later, the healthcare industry is still feeling the squeeze caused by the loss of the manufacturer. 

“Fewer manufacturers making products really impacts us,” Snow adds. “You can’t simply bring in products or drugs from Europe or somewhere else because standards might be different, and they have to go through FDA approval. This impacts non-acute markets particularly hard because hospitals often get products first.”

Drug shortages add an estimated $230 million to U.S. drug costs each year. Provista helps solve product and pharmaceutical shortages through its private label Novaplus® program. It provides access to more than 15,000 items, including those in high-demand categories such as anesthesia, business products and services, diagnostic imaging and food. 

“By utilizing our Novaplus program, clinics have access to products that are held specifically for our members,” Snow explains. “In addition, Novaplus ensures fill rates and offers price protections so members won’t experience spikes in pricing if the rest of the industry is experiencing a shortage.” 

The program is particularly valuable for helping solve pharmaceutical shortages. It offers hundreds of drugs, including shortage-prone generic injectables and critical-access medicines. “The Novaplus pharmacy portfolio allows members access to products on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) drug shortage list,” Snow adds. “Novaplus provides an average 88% fill rate on the top 25 drugs on the current shortage list.”

“If they [physicians] write a check for any product or service, there’s a good chance we have a contract for it. Before they write a check, they should call us to see if they can get it for less.”


Hiring qualified staff continues to be a challenge plaguing all areas of healthcare, from physician offices to long-term care facilities. High demand for staff means that retention is also an issue. Once a clinic hires an employee, another facility may try to poach him or her away. 

“Staff shortages are a direct reflection of the Baby Boomer population retiring and not enough new graduates coming into the system to fill the jobs,” Snow says. “When you look at the cost of education and the millennial mindset of wanting to work at home, we don’t see a lot of people wanting to go to college to become nurses. With physicians, the trend is for them to become specialists rather than general practitioners because the pay is so much better—sometimes specialists can make twice as much.” 
Clinics can turn to their GPOs for a solution. GPOs work with professional staffing agencies that can fill almost any position, short- or long-term, including doctors, nurses, specialists and other essential roles. In some cases, a call to a facility’s GPO can result in a new person on staff in just a day or two. 


MACRA is healthcare legislation that sets a framework for reimbursing clinicians. It’s part of the movement toward physicians demonstrating value-based care. The legislation created a new reward system for clinicians and physicians by placing a preference on patient quality over quantity. It establishes two frameworks for payment:

  • Merit-based Incentive Payment System. 
  • Advanced Alternative Payment Models. 

Many facilities find the shifting reimbursement measures confusing. They also face lower reimbursement rates and delays in receiving payments because of the changes. GPOs like Provista offer advisory services and information to help members stay current on legislation. GPOs also help clinics minimize the impact of reimbursement cuts by providing savings across products and services to help maintain profitability. 

“Physician practices need help from a medical supply standpoint. Are they getting competitive prices? Are they getting a good cost for prescription drugs? We can help them lower costs on their supplies and offset MACRA costs,” Show says. “If they write a check for any product or service, there’s a good chance we have a contract for it. Before they write a check, they should call us to see if they can get it for less.”


Physician clinics continue to face a variety of obstacles. Whether the issue is a shortage of products, pharmaceuticals or staffing, or seeing revenues effected by new or changing regulations, GPOs have established relationships with leading suppliers across the supply chain that can solve the problem. These suppliers have deep expertise in the business and clinical challenges physicians face every day and can help them overcome even their most difficult pain points.

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