Changing the method or system government buyers currently use for micro-purchases to a user-friendly online platform will decrease the challenges they face and help advance patient care.
Government healthcare facilities serve the community by providing care to our service members, veterans, their families, and more. These facilities depend on Procurement Agents and other buyers to source the materials, both large and small, necessary to maintain normal working operations. Small purchases, also known as micro-purchases, have a variety of ordering methods such as via contracting vehicles (GSA, DAPA, etc.), phone, fax, email, and online. Some of these systems, such as fax, are outdated and inefficient for placing orders. For example, faxes tend to have a higher lag time and encounter greater deliverability issues. Other methods prove to be problematic because they don’t have a standard process in place for orders which can lead to misunderstandings, additional follow-up, and delayed lead times.
With today’s technology, user expectations have increased dramatically, and people turn to the internet for almost anything. People want quick and convenient service and the best way to achieve that is by making their everyday tasks, like purchasing, easily accessible online. When shopping online, buyers want peace of mind in knowing that they can easily locate and purchase the item they want at the most competitive price. Some factors buyers consider are:
Is the site credible and trustworthy?
Is there strong categorization and easy search capabilities?
Is the checkout process simple, short, and without any unnecessary distractions?
Online ordering platforms, although the most efficient, can sometimes be challenging to navigate. Despite having increased access to vendors, government buyers don’t always understand how to place orders using the various online portals or may struggle to find what they need once on the platform. An article in the Healthcare journal states that “portal adoption is variable, and due to design and interface limitations,” users can find portals to be difficult to use, with the most “negatively-perceived feature” being “user-friendliness” (Baldwin, Singh, Sittig, Giardina, 2017). Server capabilities is another factor to examine. If vendors don’t have the infrastructure in place to handle large volumes of orders, buyers could encounter re-direct pages, timed-out messages, blank or 404 web pages.
When buyers struggle to navigate an online store, it can impact their ability to locate and/or source the product(s) they need at the most competitive price. In fact, a study by Corra found that “68.9% of shoppers will leave e-commerce sites due to poorly designed menu, basic or limited search capabilities, and products that appear too branded.” This is simply because it takes away from the customer or user experience and becomes a burden to the buyer. If government healthcare buyers refrain from online purchasing due to design and interface limitations, then they have two options: They could face the inconvenience of having to place the order using an alternate method or they could just select a new vendor altogether.
The problem with this is that other vendors might not provide the same quality equipment or service. Without easy access to vendors or their supplies, buyers risk purchasing lower-quality goods which influences the treatment solutions used for patients. Alternative solutions could increase the possibility of unwanted side effects while similar solutions pose comparable challenges. For example, if buyers work with new vendors, they chance engaging with ones that are high risk, have poor customer service or a questionable past performance. Although, not all new vendors are like this, buyers should thoroughly consider if it’s even worth chancing when it comes to their patients. After all, these patients consist of our veterans, our active-duty personnel, their families, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and more. These are our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, etc. Don’t they deserve the highest quality of care possible? If so, then is the risk really worth it?
Easy-to-use online stores provide a range of benefits to government healthcare buyers. Besides decreasing the likelihood of misunderstandings, online Point of Sales (POS) systems can be customized for government users to allow them to input their PO number at checkout. This expedites the ordering process and ensures data from the buyer and seller are aligned. Orders are correct all the time and costs are transparent without any hidden fees. Also, by making the ordering process online buyers have the ability to place their orders virtually anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection and vendors can easily process them. Not only does this reduce human error, but it also allows government buyers to monitor their expenses incurred in real time. Overall, when you look at the benefits these sites provide, the choice is clear. By sticking to user-friendly online ordering platforms, government buyers can reduce hassle and headaches while providing better quality of care to their patients.