Healthcare VMS: Time to sink or swim?

Around 500 executives from healthcare staffing providers joined us at the 2007 Healthcare Staffing Summit a few weeks back.  Amid their general optimism (healthcare is one of the few areas of temp staffing usage that is showing improving results), the continuing heat around Vendor Management Systems (VMS) gave me the feeling that I'd been there and seen that all before.

Now, elsewhere in the world of contingent work, most of the anger and fear around this topic dissipated several years ago.  VMS is now either in place or planned for most large users of contingent labor.  And for the most part, staffing suppliers have learned to adapt.  In healthcare it's a different story, as innovation in this sector tends to lag behind the rest of the contingent staffing world.  In fact, only around 12% of healthcare buyers have implemented a VMS, though another 32% are considering it within two years. 

The relatively high level of negative reaction to VMS among healthcare staffing providers reminded me of the general staffing world in 2002.  Back then the grumbling was that this technology would lower quality, squeeze staffing margins and make service less personal. While that may be true in some implementations, the fact is that large users want this technology in order to get control and visibility into their increasingly strategic contingent workforce spending.  For buyers and forward thinking staffing firms alike, that is a good thing and a natural outcome of ongoing growth in contingent usage.  And whether staffing suppliers like it or not, trying to stem the VMS tide, even in the slower adapting world of healthcare, is like trying to hold back the ocean. 

Staffing firms (and their clients) will be much better served by learning to swim in the new VMS ocean. 

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