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Why Supplier Onboarding Is Critical to Healthcare Risk Exposure

Leanne Strickler
Published August 08, 2023

So you run a healthcare organization and want to reduce risk? One of the most important things you can do is get serious about managing your suppliers and onboarding new vendors properly. If you don’t have a solid supplier onboarding process, you’re leaving yourself wide open to compliance issues, data breaches, and damaged patient trust.

Your organization relies on suppliers and vendors for everything from medical devices and pharmaceuticals to IT infrastructure, billing, and staffing services. If any one of those relationships goes south, you could face major headaches. Not to mention the fact that more suppliers mean more hands in the pot stirring around your patients’ private data. 

The good news is by implementing a comprehensive supplier onboarding program with strong data security controls, you can avoid these kinds of risks and sleep better at night knowing your organization and patients’ well-being are in good hands. Keep reading to find out how to build a world-class supplier onboarding process tailored for healthcare. The steps may take time and resources, but the payoff will be huge.

The Importance of Supplier Onboarding and Data Management in Healthcare

As a healthcare provider, you know that managing your suppliers and their data is crucial to reducing risk exposure and improving operational efficiency. Supplier onboarding and data management should be a top priority.

In healthcare, strong supplier relationships and data management are essential. Make onboarding and optimizing your suppliers a priority so you can reduce costs, improve care, and boost patient goodwill. Your organization and those you serve will benefit from it.

How Supplier Onboarding in Healthcare Reduces Risk Exposure

Proper vendor onboarding is essential to reducing risk exposure for any healthcare organization. When you bring on a new supplier, you also bring their data, systems, and potential vulnerabilities into your ecosystem. Conducting comprehensive due diligence during onboarding helps ensure you know exactly what risks that new partner may pose.

As you evaluate potential suppliers, make security and privacy considerations a top priority. Request details about their data management policies, security protocols, and compliance standards. Ask about any previous breaches. Reviewing this information can reveal shortcomings that could put your organization at risk.

Once you’ve selected a vendor, work with them to determine essential security controls and an onboarding plan. Clearly outline your security requirements, risk management expectations, and compliance responsibilities. Provide training to ensure they understand critical regulations like HIPAA. Require suppliers to provide updated documentation about their data and security policies annually.

With efficient onboarding, you build the foundation for a trusting partnership. But you also gain visibility into new risks and can collaborate to address them proactively. Comprehensive evaluations, open communication, and ongoing oversight are essential. When you invest in fully understanding new suppliers and their risk profiles, you can feel confident you aren’t taking on more risk than you bargained for. Your patients, providers, and bottom line will thank you for it.

Key Steps to Implementing a Supplier Onboarding Program

Establish a Supplier Onboarding Process

The first critical step is designing a standardized process for evaluating and approving new suppliers before they can provide goods or services. This process should include:

Set Clear Supplier Expectations

You’ll need to establish explicit requirements and controls for suppliers in a supplier contract or code of conduct. These should include:

Create a Supplier Portal

A secure portal gives suppliers a centralized place to register, provide the required information, and stay up-to-date on the latest requirements or policies. Benefits of a portal include:

Best Practices for Healthcare Supplier Data Management

Once you’ve identified how you’ll leverage automation and a central data repository, it’s time to put best practices in place for managing your healthcare supplier data. These steps will help reduce risk exposure by ensuring you have accurate, up-to-date information.

Standardize Data Collection

The data you collect from suppliers should be standardized to improve interoperability. Work with suppliers to determine what data is essential, like contact info, services provided, certifications, etc. Then create forms to capture this data in a consistent format.

Perform Regular Reviews

Conduct reviews of supplier data at least annually to verify all information is still correct. Check that contacts, addresses, licenses or certifications haven’t changed. It’s also a good time to ensure you have data for all active suppliers. Reviews help avoid issues like sending requests to old contacts who are no longer with the organization.

Maintain Accurate Records

Once data has been collected and reviewed, be diligent in keeping records up to date. Save any communications with suppliers as records of interactions, as well as notes on any data changes provided. These records ensure you have an audit trail in case of any issues or disputes in the future. They also give you quick access to supplier details without having to contact them for basic information.

Provide Supplier Access

Giving suppliers access to their own data records lets them review and make any needed corrections or updates on their own. This saves time and improves data accuracy since the suppliers can instantly see if any information is out of date or incorrect. With the proper controls and permissions in place, supplier access is a win-win.

By following these best practices for healthcare supplier data management, you’ll gain better visibility and control over this information to help reduce risk exposure in your organization. The time invested in developing standardized processes and keeping data current is well worth the effort.

Using Technology to Streamline Supplier Onboarding and Data Management

Automate and streamline supplier onboarding

Onboarding new suppliers manually is time-consuming and resource-intensive. Supplier onboarding software can automate much of the process, reducing the time it takes to onboard a new vendor from weeks to just days. These automated solutions guide suppliers through self-service portals to input their information and documents. Built-in intelligence can then review and validate the data, flagging any issues for you to review.

Simplify supplier data management

Managing supplier data—like contracts, insurance certificates, and compliance documents—is an ongoing challenge. Supplier onboarding solutions centralize all this information in one place, making it easy to stay on top of renewals and keep data up to date. Role-based access allows different teams to access the specific supplier information they need.

Foster collaboration through networks

Some supplier onboarding software incorporates business networks that connect healthcare organizations and suppliers. These networks, like Graphite Connect, facilitate ongoing communication and collaboration. Suppliers can get answers to questions, access resources, and build relationships. For buyers, networks provide a quick way to poll suppliers, share updates, and evaluate suppliers. Integrating a network can reduce the time to onboard by up to 70%.

Gain visibility into risk exposure

Robust reporting and analytics give you visibility into potential risk exposure across your supplier network. You can easily see which suppliers have expired or missing insurance certificates, non-compliant contracts, or other issues that could put your organization at risk. Some solutions even provide risk scoring for each supplier to help you prioritize follow-up and make more informed sourcing decisions.

By leveraging technology solutions for supplier onboarding and data management, you can reduce the effort required, minimize risk, and build better relationships with trading partners. While the initial investment may seem costly, the long-term gains in efficiency, compliance, and risk mitigation make the business case for this software quite compelling.


Supplier onboarding in healthcare and data management are critical tools for reducing risk in healthcare. By thoroughly vetting suppliers, clearly defining data requirements and handling procedures, and closely monitoring supplier performance and compliance, healthcare organizations can gain far greater control and oversight. This allows them to identify issues early and make corrections to avoid costly mistakes, fines, or damage to their reputation. While it requires an investment of time and resources, the potential savings and benefits to patient care make it well worth the effort. Managing healthcare risk exposure is challenging enough without adding uncontrolled variables into the mix. Supplier onboarding helps ensure that any outside partners share your priorities of high quality, compliance, and risk mitigation. With the stakes so high, it’s an effort that simply can’t be overlooked.

When you’re ready to streamline your supplier onboarding and data management, get in touch and see how SupplierGATEWAY can help.