Healthcare Procurement Seen as Obstacle to Creating More Affordable Patient Care

healthcare professional with supplies

If there is one similarity shared by healthcare and payments, it’s the opportunity for innovation.

If there is another, it’s that the world can’t operate without them.

Taken together, that’s why transformation and growth across both the payments landscape and the healthcare marketplace is so important, and so valuable.

It’s also why PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster sat down with Jonathan Chen, founder and CEO of Nitra, to discuss the launch of Nitra’s new medical supply marketplace, as well as the importance of, and the opportunities within, corporate card programs, smart expense management solutions and payments services designed for medical practices and healthcare providers.

“The whole expense side of healthcare isn’t being thought of, and the lack of price transparency and efficiency in the medical supply space ends up affecting the actual patients themselves,” Chen said.

After all, for as good as they are at identifying ailments and recommending treatments, doctors often struggle with managing their finances, handling accounting and getting the best margins on their purchases.

“When you think about how you can best serve the market, one major thing is honestly just getting the best deals and having the lowest prices,” Chen said.

One way to solve these problems by providing physicians with a card that offers rewards for purchases and streamlines the reconciliation process.

Chen explained that verticalized financial rewards, like offering cash back on medical supplies, are more valuable to a doctor in private practice than standard-fare credit card benefits like travel points.

“How much money does a doctor spend on travel in a year? It’s maybe $12,000. But they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a month sometimes on medical supplies,” he said.

By giving doctors a tool to manage their spend, payments products can empower them to handle their back-office operations more efficiently.

Reframing Longstanding Issues as Opportunities

One of the main issues Chen identified was the lack of transparency and efficiency in the healthcare supply chain, particularly in the expense side of the industry around medical supply purchases and healthcare procurement.

“Every single day doctors are buying from the major brands like McKesson, Henry Shine, AbbVie, all these folks, and oftentimes they’re doing it manually through a salesperson who comes to their office and sends them an invoice … it gets very jumbled up and the process is obscure, as is the pricing transparency,” he said, noting that the existing infrastructure creates a lot of additional costs that have been rising due to margin expansion and supply chain challenges.

That’s why for innovations aimed at reducing the burden of healthcare costs for businesses, practitioners, and patients, the problem area of the medical procurement space represents such an opportunity.

And by cutting out the middleman and connecting doctors directly with suppliers, Chen said, Nitra’s new marketplace aims to create a seamless experience that benefits both parties, while streamlining legacy inefficiencies that would historically get pushed down the value chain to the patient.

Giving Doctors a Good Deal Gives Patients a Better One

Doctors often face challenges in finding the best deals on medical supplies, struggling to find a transparent and efficient way to purchase much-needed supplies at the lowest prices possible.

Chen said medical suppliers are incentivized to join Nitra’s marketplace as they gain access to a larger customer base and the opportunity to sell in bulk. While doctors often have preferred brands for quality reasons, Nitra’s marketplace offers competitive pricing and aims to build trust over time.

Although anyone can shop the Nitra Marketplace, existing Nitra corporate cardholders receive concierge purchasing support, a price match guarantee, and higher cash-back rewards.

As with many digital marketplaces, the purchasing capabilities being provided to customers can have the knock-on effect of feeding into the valuable data and analytics that can be leveraged to optimize product availability, pricing and relevancy at scale.

Nitra’s goal is to create a seamless experience that encompasses expense management, payments and procurement, ultimately streamlining back-office operations for physicians.

Looking ahead to 2024, Chen plans to expand Nitra’s existing ecosystem by adding payroll and staffing solutions to its platform. This addition will help bridge the gap between staffing software and payroll systems, providing doctors with a comprehensive solution to manage their entire workflow.