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The Appeal of Vendor Management Systems for Physician Staffing

The pros and cons of VMS'sA strong marketing push toward automated staffing has hospitals and health systems considering how technology can help them better manage their physician recruiting processes. At CompHealth, we get a lot of feedback from recruiters about the workload and headaches that await you on the job every day:

  • Intolerable number of phone calls from locum tenens recruiting firms
  • Lack of deliverability/service
  • Lack of uniformity in billing and invoicing
  • Usage and financial reporting
  • Uncontrolled costs
  • Inefficient processes
  • Quality concerns with locum tenens providers

And I’m sure this is only a partial list. Given these challenges, it’s not surprising that healthcare facilities are considering implementing a VMS (vendor management system) or MSP (managed service provider), thinking they will reap these benefits:

  • Reduced vendor calls
  • Single point of contact
  • Increased fill rates and reduced fill times
  • Standardized contracting
  • Availability of cost reports and other vendor performance metrics
  • Document control and management
  • Cost reduction through bill rate standardization/management and competition

While it sounds ideal, the reality is often very different. What typically results from using a computerized system is ineffective communication, which ultimately drives down provider quality and deliverability. Here’s a perspective from a nurse recruiter whose facility implemented a vendor management system:

“I am a staffer in a facility that utilizes a great deal of supplemental staffing. For many years we worked directly with our vendors, and over those years the better agencies distinguished themselves and therefore earned more of our business. I was involved with the contract negotiations and felt that we always hammered out a fair win/win agreement.

Then one day about a year ago, we were told by our financial officers that we would be going with a VMS program. No one in the nursing area had any input into this decision; it was thrust upon us with no warning. We were assured that it would be a good thing for us and that nothing would change because we would basically keep all the same vendors. That was a lie. Virtually everything changed.

I am not adverse to change if that change represents improvement. What I have seen since we have been working with the VMS program is a steady deterioration in the quality of service and the quality of nurses. I violated the policy and spoke with the agencies, and they were candid with me. My facility was no longer a preferred client for them or their nurses because rates and terms were so unattractive. Their focus was with clients with whom they had win/win relationships.

Thankfully, my administration is seriously considering canceling the contract with this VMS program and going back to working directly with our agencies. They have told me that we will find some middle ground that everyone can live with and be happy with – in other words, a win/win. Hallelujah!”

This commenter, identified only as helend289, was responding to a blog discussion around Why Small Healthcare Staffing Firms Should Take a Stand on VMS/MSP. Of course, there is a lot of chatter happening in the staffing industry about the pros and cons of this movement — not the least of which is the threat of monopoly and how it will affect smaller firms and staffing buyers — but I always find the client perspective to be the most compelling. After all, you are the end user who will be most affected.

Related: Why physician recruiters should beware of VMS

I’ve talked with enough physician recruiters to understand the appeal of implementing a VMS/MSP. You are struggling with more work than you can handle and growing process inefficiencies that you are hoping will all go away with automation – but I can tell you that there is a better way.

I’m going to use the example of a CompHealth client facility that was recently considering going down a VMS/MSP route and turned to us for advice. Having just had partnered with this client to conduct some Lean exercises, we knew their system and processes very well. And because of this insight, we were able to help them craft a custom solution that didn’t sacrifice quality, deliverability or, ultimately, patient care.

Understanding that every client situation is different, I strongly recommend evaluating your facility’s recruiting process cycle to figure out the true root causes of inefficiency before resorting to automation as a way to fix everything. This is actually the topic of a presentation that I am co-presenting at this year’s CompHealth Symposium titled “Optimize Your Hiring Strategy Through Evolution, not Revolution.”

If you are planning to attend, I look forward to a healthy, interactive discussion around this topic that will hopefully lead you to finding some real solutions to your daily challenges. You can also look for follow-up coverage and key takeaways coming soon to the CompHealth website.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or thoughts on this subject that you would like to see addressed either in my presentation or on this blog, please leave them in the comments section below.

About Thomas Lanvers

Thomas Lanvers is the sales manager for the national accounts team at CompHealth locum tenens and has more than 10 years of sales experience.

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