The healthcare industry relies heavily on third-party vendors to provide critical products and services. From medical devices and pharmaceuticals to IT systems and facilities management, healthcare organizations partner with a vast network of vendors to deliver quality care.
However, these vendor relationships also expose healthcare organizations to significant risks if not properly managed. This makes vendor risk management an essential practice for healthcare entities.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why vendor risk management is so vital to healthcare and provide tips for implementing an effective program.
Significance of Vendor Risk Management Healthcare Industry
The High Costs of Vendor Noncompliance
Lapses in vendor compliance with laws, regulations, and contractual requirements can lead to major financial, legal, and reputational damages for healthcare providers. Vendors that fail to meet quality and safety standards for medical devices or drugs put patients at risk. IT vendors with poor cybersecurity expose protected health information (PHI) to breaches. Even simple issues like a vendor not carrying the right insurance coverage can leave healthcare entities financially liable in the event of an incident.
Managing a Complex Vendor Environment
The healthcare supply chain is vast and intricate, making vendor oversight challenging. Hospitals may work with hundreds to thousands of vendors providing everything from janitorial services to MRI machines. New vendor relationships form constantly as technologies, services, and regulations evolve. These vendor relationships introduce risks around quality, safety, costs, compliance, and more. For example, a vendor could sell defective patient monitors that produce inaccurate readings, fail to alert nursing staff of issues, or present cybersecurity vulnerabilities that threaten connected networks. The vendor may also misrepresent certifications, lack proper insurance, or ignore regulatory obligations around patient privacy.
Large health systems frequently work with tens of thousands of vendors when factoring in subsidiary hospitals, clinics, and business partners. This complex vendor environment means comprehensive oversight is essential but also incredibly difficult without the right vendor risk management strategies.
Evolving Regulatory Requirements
Federal and state regulatory agencies continue expanding requirements for vendor risk management and third-party risk in healthcare. For instance, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requires covered entities to ensure business associates like vendors comply with HIPAA regulations for PHI security and privacy.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also regulates medical devices and pharmaceutical vendors. Additionally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued guidance urging healthcare organizations to assess third-party risks and put in place the best third-party risk management practices. Developing a vendor risk management program that meets evolving compliance and regulatory demands is crucial for healthcare entities.
Transforming Healthcare Vendor Oversight
Thankfully, healthcare organizations today have growing access to purpose-built technologies that help them better identify, measure, and mitigate risks introduced through their vendor networks. These include specialized vendor risk management software solutions along with ancillary tools like vendor credentialing automation, supplier master databases, contract lifecycle management systems, risk rating dashboards and analytics, auditing software, etc.
In particular, blockchain technologies are drawing enthusiastic interest in bringing unprecedented transparency, accuracy, and security to healthcare supply chains. Through decentralized ledger architecture, blockchain systems can create permanent audit trails tracking items from manufacturing through final delivery – all through encrypted entries accessible to all supply chain participants.
While still emerging in development, the promise of blockchain for securing healthcare supply chains represents one of many ways vendor risk management is embracing next-generation technologies to enter a new era of innovation. Paired with artificial intelligence, advanced data integration capabilities, and automated workflows, leading healthcare organizations now have an opportunity to revolutionize vendor oversight.
Tips for Healthcare Vendor Risk Management
Healthcare organizations should consider these tips when establishing or improving their vendor risk management programs:
- Identify all vendors and classify them based on risk level
- Conduct thorough due diligence during vendor selection
- Include contractual provisions that hold vendors accountable
- Verify vendors have adequate insurance coverage
- Continuously monitor vendor performance and compliance
- Perform audits of higher-risk vendors
- Develop contingency plans for terminating vendor relationships if necessary
- Automate program components through technology like risk rating dashboards
- Provide vendor risk management training for employees
- Align the program with regulatory requirements and industry standards
Strong vendor oversight safeguards healthcare organizations, patients, and the broader community. While vendor risk management demands considerable resources, a robust program is an invaluable investment. Implementing continuous process improvements and leveraging technology helps streamline efforts so healthcare entities can reap the benefits of securing their complex vendor networks. That is the reason Beaconer has a policy standard of strict vendor oversight when it comes to healthcare organizations.
Beaconer uses cutting-edge cloud-native artificial intelligence platforms to provide solutions to your third-party ecosystem. Beaconer helps strengthen the relationship between businesses and third parties with the help of its innovatively developed due diligence program.