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Q&A: How Sentara Saved $1 Million in 5 Months

Sentara Health is a 12-hospital integrated delivery network (IDN) with locations across Virginia and North Carolina.Sentara is recognized nationally for clinical quality and safety, and is strategically focused on innovation and creating an extraordinary healthcare experience for our patients and members.

Sentara faced the challenge of optimizing drug spend without burdening staff with a

manual, time-consuming approach. In response, they chose to implement CostCheck, a medication spend optimization platform that helps hospitals eliminate up to 4% of annual drug spend by uniting pricing data across the industry to identify savings opportunities – including overcharges, mischarges, and lower cost alternatives – while assuring GPO compliance and 340B optimization.

The large IDN streamlined their purchasing workflows across multiple sites and saved $1 million within their first five months using CostCheck – all while spending just minutes in the software weekly. Below is a Q&A with Bluesight’s Director of Pharmacy Supply Chain, Scott Person, and Sentara’s System Director of Clinical & Financial Pharmacy Programs, Chris Tagliente and System Pharmacy Business Manager, Eddie Gutshall where the two pharmacy purchasing experts discuss how they chose to implement CostCheck and the results they were able to drive by leveraging the software. 


Q: What led you to the decision to invest in CostCheck?

A: Our partnership with Bluesight and the technical infrastructure already in place were significant factors. We were already familiar with their products and had the necessary IT approval. We sought a program that could document savings easily and quickly, driving our purchasing to the most cost-effective items.

We also helped with the beta test of CostCheck. And, Bluesight’s been very willing to work with us on expanding and making enhancements or improvements.

Q: How did the decision to consolidate vendors impact your choice of CostCheck?

A: It’s obviously easier to have less vendors. Also, having previous modules and pieces in place with Bluesight, like KitCheck and ControlCheck, and the foundational structure for data feeds took consolidation considerations out of the equation. This helped expedite our decision-making process to move forward with CostCheck.

Q: Can you walk us through your previous processes for spend optimization before using CostCheck?

A: We used the PO compare feature with our wholesaler, which recommended cost-effective products as part of placing orders. However, this had limitations due to operational constraints, like robotics and 340B considerations. CostCheck improved upon this by providing clearer recommendations without confusing different requirements.

Q: How did you approach the system-wide implementation of CostCheck across all twelve of your hospitals, some of which have different 340b statuses?

A: We developed a strategy in collaboration with pharmacy leadership at each facility, setting clear objectives and a timeline. After a kickoff in July, we conducted training sessions with our pharmacy buyers in August and continued with follow-up sessions. We started with a few opportunities per location and gradually increased. Centralized monitoring and user group meetings helped us track and improve acceptance rates.

Q: Do you have a centralized process for evaluating CostCheck recommendations, or does each site handle it individually?

A: We have a centralized process overseen by pharmacy administration, but the actual implementation is done by inventory planners (pharmacy buyers) at each of the twelve sites. They are responsible for determining the feasibility of changes at their hospitals.

Q: How has CostCheck helped document savings and achieve financial goals?

A: CostCheck has made the documentation of savings seamless, which has helped us report our achievements to the C-suite. It has significantly contributed to meeting our annual cost savings targets.

Q: How were you able to achieve $1 million in savings so quickly?

A: We started working on opportunities with the highest saving potential first. Then, we worked with the individual inventory planners (pharmacy buyers) at each site to ensure that they were bought into implementing the changes. By ensuring that we operationalized the use of the product across the IDN, we were able to achieve significant savings results.

Q: What is the usual workflow for evaluating CostCheck recommendations?

A: We push out two or three recommendations to each site weekly. Analysts verify the feasibility of these recommendations before implementation. This process is designed to be manageable and ensures widespread participation.

Q: How do these savings impact your health system going forward? 

A: Like most other health system pharmacies, we’re giving annual cost savings targets. CostCheck is one of the ways we work towards achieving our cost savings target, which helps us achieve our financial stewardship goals as an entire system.

Q: Are there any upcoming features of CostCheck that you are excited about?

A: We are looking forward to the margin estimator tool, which will help us model revenue impacts, especially in the biosimilars space. Additionally, we are working on enhancements for comparing 340B facility opportunities and addressing orphan drug pricing so that facilities that don’t get orphan drug pricing aren’t shown false positive recommendations. Bluesight has a great engineering team that takers feedback from customers and builds what we want to see into CostCheck

To learn more about why Sentara chose to implement CostCheck and see more detailed results of the partnership they drove spending just minutes in the software weekly, read our recently released case study here.