Over the past five years, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services, and The Joint Commission have changed their definition of "healthcare personnel" to include "unpaid" individuals, which brings vendors and suppliers into the same patient safety regulatory classification as staff—one reason vendor tracking has become so important.
But there are good business reasons to employ such advanced tracking systems for vendors, too. The program gives hospitals an eye on whether their vendors are following agreed-upon rules of engagement.
"We require all of them to check in before they come in so we have a record," says Walsh. "And every time we sit down with a major supplier, we go to the database and see if they are selling products they are not authorized to sell so we can have a fact-based discussion about management of our account. Those are the unspoken benefits of this program."
It costs Intermountain less than $75,000 per year to operate Reptrax, but Walsh acknowledges that vendors, who pay to use the service, probably feed part of that cost back to Intermountain through pricing.
"But that's perfectly acceptable," he says, largely because the program has already proved its worth by indentifying live TB viruses as well as by finding three instances of vendor reps with sexual offenses in their backgrounds, including one who had a sexual offense involving children and was seeking access to the children's hospital.
"Preventing just one of those events makes it worthwhile," says Walsh.
Despite all that, for Intermountain, it wasn't so much a regulatory or liability issue.