Vendor management

Scripps Memorial Cath Lab Uses Web-Based RepScheduler to Schedule and Manage Vendor Relationships

This article was written by Kathleen Fisher, Fisher PR, Redondo Beach, California.

Cath Lab Digest has featured thousands of articles about the latest advances in diagnostic and interventional procedures in the cath lab, the latest clinical data from conferences and symposiums, and spotlights on individual cath labs around the world. In this article, we will focus on the relationship between the cath lab and the vendor/representative (possibly the first time such a topic is featured in CLD), and how the cardiac cath lab at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, is using a software technology called RepScheduler to improve multiple efficiencies in this delicate relationship. 

Scripps Memorial Hospital’s cardiac cath lab operates from day to day much like every other cath lab in the country. It manages multiple, scheduled case requests, multiple add-on case requests, unscheduled ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) procedures, staffing challenges, inventory and room turnover challenges, as well as multiple vendor visits. As do many hospitals, Scripps Memorial La Jolla has a high volume of interventions every year. At the cath and EP labs alone, there are up to 20 coronary and percutaneous coronary intervention procedures on any given day, supported by approximately 50-60 medical personnel — at times, a stressful environment. 

What is unique about Scripps Memorial’s cath lab is that they no longer have a wall calendar with representative (rep) names scribbled into each day of the month. They now use RepScheduler, a web-based internet site that is utilized to schedule vendors for cases, training, in-services, and meetings.

Hospital cath labs rely heavily on vendors for their expertise and experience within a specific product line. Reps also provide the necessary education and technical support for these devices directly to physicians and medical personnel. The biggest advantage of allowing vendors and clinical reps into the cath lab is that they have seen their product or device used hundreds of times in other institutions, which enables reps to share valuable insight for troubleshooting or best-practice scenarios.

David Pickering, Cath Lab Supervisor at Scripps Memorial, agrees, commenting, “Vendor representation is vital to many of our procedures in the cath lab, and also in the education and training for our staff.” In the past, “managing vendor visits required a separate calendar and multiple phone calls. This was quite a challenge.”

Aside from ensuring vendors are properly credentialed during hospital and cath lab visits, there was no easy path for lab administrators, hospital personnel, and the multitude of reps representing their products to verify or get approval for cases, in-services, and meetings. Inefficient vendor management is common among many labs due to accountability issues and miscommunication between administrator and vendor. 

How does your cath lab manage the vendor relationship? Does it take multiple phone calls, emails and unscheduled visits by the rep to secure lab days? Is it fair to all vendors? Is the communication channel efficient, or have reps shown up on the wrong days, missed cases where they were needed, or brought the wrong products with them to the lab?

Due to the complexities of vendor management, some cath labs have a no-vendor policy or limit vendor participation, because of past issues or challenges. Further, at many of the nation’s most innovative cath labs, vendor scheduling is done in an antiquated, labor-intensive way that is prone to inaccuracies.

Scripps Memorial Hospital recognized the need for better vendor communication. During this past year, Jim Adams, Cath Lab Manager, and David Pickering, Cath Lab Supervisor, incorporated RepScheduler as part of a pilot program to help solve vendor scheduling inefficiencies. RepScheduler is a web-based calendaring website that helps streamline vendor management while improving organizational efficiency, saving time and increasing receptivity between cardiac cath lab and reps. “This vendor-hospital communication system allows both sides to manage their daily tasks without wasting hours scheduling meetings, in-services, cases, etc.,” says Adams.

Previously, the cath lab at Scripps Memorial La Jolla managed reps the old-fashioned way. Jim Adams notes, “The traditional way of scheduling vendor reps wasted time — reps would call or email, then we would check the calendar to verify, followed by multiple calls or emails to finally confirm…or we would offer another time, which would start the process all over again.” 

David Pickering agrees. “It required an enormous amount of time and effort to constantly speak with vendors regarding scheduling and keeping the calendar up to date,” he said. Pickering recognized the advantages the first day the new system was implemented. “Scheduling is effortless. The vendors all participate and have quickly adapted to this method of scheduling.” He continues, “The vendors know immediately that they have a confirmed day to visit and don’t have to wait for us to check a calendar and get back with them. It has streamlined communication.”

RepScheduler opens communication between the hospital, physician and vendor, whether it is to schedule a lab day, a specific in-service or training, or is at the request of a physician for a specific case on the board. It empowers lab administrators with online functionality to customize their lab settings to the frequency and time vendors can enter their labs in a given period.

Additionally, the software streamlines the calendaring process while providing an additional layer of security in tandem with standard hospital compliance vendor software. Hospital administrators can tell who, when, and, most importantly, where, medical reps are in the hospital, should The Joint Commission or another agency enter the hospital. Reps and administrators can access the website/calendar at any given time, giving them the ability to schedule during off hours or when it is convenient for them.

The ability to communicate with representatives from a single outlet enables administrators to convey a hospital’s needs or desires with the click of a button. Jim Adams notes, “At the start of the week, I can print out the RepScheduler calendar or view it online, and I know both the lab and vendor are looking at the same calendar.” 

Once a hospital signs up for a password-protected account, they simply add labs and administrators by following the intuitive prompts and required information. Next, the administrators assigned to the account have the ability to customize the individual settings of the lab. It takes less than an hour to add a lab and start customizing an individual lab’s calendar. RepScheduler is free for hospital cardiac cath labs, and the software passes all tests administered by risk management or the IT department within the hospital.

RepScheduler’s vendor portal enables vendors to login to specific hospitals’ labs and reserve slots based on the hospitals’ agenda. The lab administrator has the ability to allow the reps to see each other’s name on the calendar, or if the staff would prefer to keep this confidential, it can simply show the time slot as filled or unavailable.  

Just as time is saved for the lab, RepScheduler also saves the rep time, by negating the need for phone calls, emails, and juggling schedules around their competition. For vendors, RepScheduler has a nominal monthly or annual fee to manage all of the programming costs and upkeep associated with the website, and the fee covers all hospitals employing the service.

When asked about the reaction of vendors, Jim Adams said, “We have not heard one complaint from the vendors about RepScheduler; they know the rules, see what’s available, and make it work with their schedule.” David Pickering adds, “We have been able to set limits on the number of vendors/day and it has also allowed the vendors greater freedom in selecting alternate days, if necessary. All of our vendors are pleased with the process.” 

One of the lab’s vendors agrees, commenting, “For all the other cath labs when I need to schedule lab days, training, in-services, or meetings with the team in the cath lab, it requires a lot of time on my end, as well as theirs. I call, or have multiple emails back and forth per week to establish dates that work for both of us, and this is lost time for me. With the new software that Scripps Memorial is using, it only takes a few minutes per week, and I can spend the extra time being more productive to service my customers. It is worth every penny many times over.”

Since RepScheduler was introduced to Scripps’ La Jolla Cath Lab, the online scheduling management tool has centralized administrator vendor interaction, decreased scheduling conflicts, and optimized scheduling efficiency. What was once a cumbersome and monotonous scheduling system is now fast and efficient with RepScheduler. 

David Pickering summed up his comments by saying “RepScheduler has reduced cardiac cath lab departmental risk and liability simply by our use of the RepScheduler software. We have a 24/7 view of all vendor requests and activities. This is the next big step in streamlining a tired and old method of managing the vendor relationship.” 

For more information on RepScheduler, go to www.repscheduler.com, or send an email to support@repscheduler.com.