Pay less and spend more—the real value in healthcare procurement
Healthcare performances have been for long evaluated according to outcomes and costs. What still needs to be defined is which outcomes are the most relevant to the patient, and which costs any supplier is capable to reduce, or increase, to the funder. If technical efficiencies during healthcare production and delivery may continue to evolve, the opportunities for further savings are likely to decrease. Major improvement could be achieved from better definition of outcomes that really matters to patients and stakeholders, that is measuring the real value. Many purchasers are shifting from a traditional approach based on single-unit cost-saving to a more holistic approach, encompassing long- lasting performance evaluation, including the highest possible number of stakeholders and wider sets of indicators. Value-based procurement (VBP) has been defined as achieving “outcomes that matter to people at the lowest possible cost”. Although this approach may appear complicated in practice, it was already proven successful in different countries, medical and surgical applications, and has also been endorsed by some important international institutions. The scope of this review is to introduce VBP from a theoretical and an empirical level, referring to relevant practices and challenges which emerged in the current institutional, clinical and academic debate. VBP seems to be a promising solution to improve healthcare efficiency and fairness, provided a clear conception of what is value and a permanent collaboration between clinicians and scientists. When different dimensions of value (i.e., personal, technical, allocative and societal) are supported by well-designed study to identify the respective outcomes, it becomes easier to find better solutions in support of healthcare quality and sustainability.