February 27

Three Simple Rules to Apply When Getting Pushback to Big Savings Opportunities


“You need to further develop your strategies and patience, especially when you are talking about a savings opportunity where you’re asking the department heads and managers to change.”

In my 32+ years of working in the healthcare supply/value chain world I have done my share presenting big savings opportunities to the various department heads/managers and C-Suite of health systems throughout the country. You would think that presenting big savings opportunities would be welcomed with open arms and quick action to drive out the bottom-line-hurting costs. Well, that is not the case, and there are a number of dynamics that you need to understand and embrace as part of the process.

Getting Pushback to Big Savings is Not a Bad Thing

1. “We Are Not Going to Save Money Just to Save Money!” The headline quote was from a President of a Community Hospital that we presented a laundry list of savings opportunities to. At first, I was taken aback by his statement given that the reason they contracted us to find their savings opportunities was because they REALLY needed to save money at that time. He was also witnessing department heads throwing up red flags to just about every single savings opportunity that we had documented as to why they wouldn’t even consider our recommendations. What the President of the hospital really meant was, “I am not going to upset the delicate balance of my organization for the sake of saving money.”

2. Learn to Embrace the Storm Presenting a change recommendation, let alone major savings opportunities, is going to garner a bunch of pushback, even from those like the CFO who hired you to find the savings for them. This is perfectly natural, and you have to learn not to take it personally. You want them to give the pushback right up front. Why? Remember, this is more than likely the first time they are seeing these savings opportunities so you should expect the red flags and pushback to happen. The most important thing you need to realize is that 100% of the time the storm of lip service is going to come and that you just have to be professional and extremely patient to weather this storm. Trust me, hold your ground no matter what reason they give and take good notes on all of these reasons. You will leave that initial meeting with a positive, “Let us look into all of these categories further,” because they just opened the door with their flags for you to do so!

3. Pushback Is a Process of Elimination – It would be strange if department heads and managers did not try to “talk away savings” in one way or another on the initial presentation of any big savings opportunity. They are leaders who are taught to make clear and concise decisions on a daily basis that impact patient outcomes in many ways. It is natural for them to have a knee-jerk reaction to the big savings opportunity in every instance. Common reactions are, “We were really busy that week in the ED,” or, “We had an unusual influx of a certain patient diagnosis,” or, “Dr. So-and-So increased his case volume by 50% over the past few months.” They are going to take their best quick judgement at the reason why their costs increased in a particular category. This is all expected, but what will you do about this? You will investigate every knee-jerk justification as to why the savings opportunities are not real and prove that they are in fact real. We are also going to make sure that perhaps the department heads may also be right. I find the 80/20 rule applies here. About 2 out of their 8 reasons are valid which leaves you with 80% solid savings opportunities to move forward with.

Develop Strategies and Patience When Presenting Savings Opportunities

With these simple steps you will come to realize that your big savings recommendation is not the issue. You could recommend any change and more than likely get pushback on it as everyone is for change until it comes to their department. You just need to further develop your strategies and patience, especially when you are talking about a major or even minor savings opportunity where you’re asking the department heads and managers to change. In reality, we are doing this to help them reduce their costs for their budgets, which is very important to them and their organization. In the end, everyone wins but you have to embrace these dynamics as part of the big savings game in our healthcare world.

Below are some similar articles that you may find interesting.

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Request Demo of SVAH’s Value Analysis and Utilization Tools


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