Mercy exec on her career journey from RN to chief supply chain officer

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Serving at one of the largest health systems in the nation, Lori Pilla, RN, described her journey from nurse to vice president and chief supply chain officer at Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy.

The following article is based on a podcast published by Becker's Hospital Review.

Ms. Pilla started her journey as a nurse at Mercy. She worked doing direct patient care on the surgical floors and worked her way into the operating room.

"Before I had gone and extended my education to get my bachelor's in business management and my MBA, I was approached by a group of surgeons way back [around 2004] and they wanted me to build their surgery center," Ms. Pilla said. "I had no idea how to do that, quite honestly, and expressed my concern about fulfilling that duty for them. They had complete faith in me."

Then off she went to start a new venture with a group of 18 surgeons who were working to build a surgery center.

"I really believed that that was kind of the eye-opener for me in what true supply chain end-to-end really meant," she said. "I was responsible for not only the facility, the interior and exterior of that building, but also procurement of all of the supplies, capital equipment, managed care contracting and all of those things necessary to run that sort of business."

She said being a nurse gave her profound insight into what supplies are needed and how it affects care. She continued her education and earned an MBA from St. Charles, Mo.-based Lindenwood University. She also obtained a certified professional supply management certification. 

After the pandemic shook up the hospital supply chain, Ms. Pilla is focusing on getting the tools her health system uses every day back on track. Like many other health systems and hospitals, Mercy is continuing with a lot of revenue loss and is looking for every way to cut costs.

"We are looking for every way to reduce costs, but not in the traditional way where we're focusing on those few cents on the margin when it comes to commodities, but really pairing up the utilization of products with the standardization to do that cost reduction," she said. 

Overall, the biggest target for Mercy is to demonstrate a clinically integrated supply chain where all clinicians and physicians have significant influence in what they're using and how they use it, as well as establishing best practices in order to fulfill the best possible outcomes for the patients, she said.

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