Hospital Use of Online Purchases Increases, but not as Quickly as Expected
A new study of hospital purchasing patterns finds "E-procurement is catching on," but less "rapidly" than observers had predicted, Reuters Health reports. Hospital procurement managers bought $1.62 billion of medical supplies and equipment over the Internet last quarter, according to the Toronto-based Millennium Research Group. The volume of online purchases rose one percentage point from the previous quarter, to 3.5%. Currently, Internet buying is limited, as procurement managers must "enter data twice" to ensure Internet purchases "square up" with existing materials management. Until hospitals are able to connect their "electronic data interchange systems" with health care supply companies, the survey found online purchasing "is often more time consuming than beneficial." MRG predicted in June that 64% of medical purchases would be made over the Internet by 2003, but the company has "tempered [its] forecasts" and now expects 47% of medical purchases to be conducted online by that point. According to the study, hospitals with 150 beds or less are the "most active online buyers." MRG Internet analyst Andrea Currie said, "Due to the greater fragmentation and potential efficiency gains of smaller and rural hospitals, these facilities are much more aggressive about moving online. ... Hospital procurement managers continue to be optimistic that e-procurement will reduce inefficiencies in the supply chain and save both time and money" (Reuters Health, 11/1).