Now that you understand precisely what a Value Analysis Committee [VAC] is and the role they play, let’s go a little deeper and explore their expectations of you, the medtech vendor who’s holding what you believe to be the next great, innovative healthcare product or service. How do you approach the VAC to be successful? What happens if things don’t go initially as you’d hoped?
To begin with, understand the VA process is not an overnight one. VACs meet on a schedule and their time is precious so, right up front, accept the reality that getting from “here” to “there” could take a month … or it could take six months before you get either the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down. In some cases, it might take longer, especially if the VAC believes your offering is alluring but they need more clinical data and validation to reach a final decision.
“There will be some paint points,” says Amy Whitaker, RN, BSN, Corporate Vice President, Clinical Transformation, Advantus Health Partners. “You’ve got to be patient, be responsive, be helpful and, above all, be a good steward of the Committee’s time. The good news is a VAC will work with a supplier to identify gaps and make recommendations. Just be sure to never overstate and under-deliver.”
In one case, a medtech vendor had come up with a robotic innovation that and, according to the hype, was the greatest thing to ever come down the pike. [Even sliced bread blushed.] Unfortunately, when it came time to assess clinical data and validate how the product actually performed in the healthcare arena, it didn’t live up to the promise. Not even close.
In these situations, you not only swing and miss in an embarrassing fashion, you negatively impact your own reputation and standing with this particular VAC and its members who may be on the committee the next time you seek an audience, or they may have moved on to another healthcare system. In either case, they’ll remember you and your empty promises. Don’t go there.
VACs are thorough …
James Russell, RN-BC, MBA, CVAHP, Director of Clinical Resource Management, MD Anderson Cancer Center, points out, “The VAC leans on GPOs to help gather data, and to connect and confer with other healthcare systems and providers. They do their homework and they can help educate clinicians on costs and ways to contain costs without compromising patient outcomes.” It is critically important for you to be open to feedback and to remain flexible.
“In all cases, two-way flexibility is key to the relationship between the VAC and supplier,” Russell says. “VACs value suppliers with an attitude of fairness and they’re always seeking to establish long-term relationships.” It may take an agonizingly long time but it’s worth it to proceed thoughtfully, patiently and responsively.
But where do you start? Who do you call? What’s the key to getting a foot in the door and a PowerPoint deck loaded with impressive data onto a screen for the committee’s consideration?
“Most Value Analysis Departments are embedded in the Supply Chain Department,” Russell points out. “The best way for a supplier to find VA professionals is to start with Supply Chain. When you do connect with someone in Supply Chain, the vendor should ask if the healthcare system has a Value Analysis package and you should do as much of the up-front legwork as possible to help facilitate and expedite the vetting process.”
Understand the “alphabet soup” of healthcare distribution …
GPOs, IDNs, RPCs … so many initials on top of all those medical certifications and degree designations that follow a healthcare professional’s name.
It’s critically important you understand the differences between healthcare’s three major distribution entities:
“Suppliers absolutely need to understand the differences between GPOs, IDNs and RPCs,” cautions Darby Thompson, a Partner with Excelerant Consulting which guides medtech innovators through the arduous process of product commercialization.
Thompson also reinforces the point that VACs are to be respected for their knowledge. “VA teams are made up of varying perspectives so suppliers don’t always know best,” he says. “They want to determine if you’re just new bells & whistles or potentially a gamechanger.”
Thompson also advises suppliers to willingly accept VAC feedback, even if they tell you “your baby is ugly”. Then it’s time to do something with the feedback, painful though it may be. The best suppliers listen, evolve and collaborate. Stay true to all of your commitments [to the VAC] and, in Thompson’s words, “Always operate as a partner.”