Surgeon Engagement is Key for Successful Supply Standardization


Tue Mar 29 13:00:00 CDT 2016
Curtis Bower, M.D.
General Surgery Section Chief at Carilion Clinic, Roanoke, VA

Standardizing surgical supplies can lead to big cost benefits for hospitals, but that doesn’t mean your surgeons will be on board with the process. Surgeons tend to get attached to certain products — I know this because I am one — and they may resist changing their preferences. Here are some tips for obtaining surgeon buy-in for standardization.


  1. Communication is key.

    Surgeons want to feel consulted through the standardization process. To facilitate this, executives must communicate their goals, key dates for receiving feedback, and anything else the doctors should know about. When possible, provide literature reviews related to decisions about switching products or adding new ones. Offer outcomes data for review.

  2. Process transparency is a must.

    Surgeons — especially private practice doctors — often don’t understand the process hospitals go through when they standardize supplies. Try to explain the process and to inform surgeons about how they can participate. Urge doctors to propose new products more than once and to provide candid feedback about how the item performed, or didn’t perform, so your facility can stock supplies that work for both clinical and cost outcomes.

  3. Anticipate push-back.

    Some people are more resistant to change than others, and surgeons are no exception. You should anticipate that some doctors will be unhappy with any supply changes. Consider making it clear you will not make exceptions to supply policies once they have been implemented. Making exceptions scuttles the value of standardization. Instead, emphasize the ways physicians can participate before final decisions are made. Fostering a participatory environment may lead to less push-back after the fact.


Standardization holds many benefits for both surgeons and hospitals, but physician engagement probably holds the key to successfully streamlining the surgical supply chain.


Curtis Bower, M.D., is a general surgeon specializing in minimally invasive surgery techniques. He is currently the General Surgery Section Chief at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia, and has been practicing since 2006.