Healthcare supply chain professionals offer four best practices for smooth leadership transitions

We are living through the "Great Reshuffling" in organizations, and hospital supply chain teams are no exception. Managing through change is top of mind for healthcare supply chain leaders.

During a June Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by GHX Lumere, Bonnie Lai, PhD, general manager of Lumere, moderated a panel discussion with four experts who offered best practices for successful supply chain leadership transitions:

  • Amanda Chawla, chief supply chain officer, VP, Stanford Health Care, Stanford Children's Health, Stanford Valley Care in the San Francisco Bay, Calif. area
  • Jimmy Chung, MD, chief medical officer, Advantus Health Partners in Cincinnati
  • Frido Pagan, vice president of supply chain, Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis
  • Judy Webb-Hapgood, system VP supply chain & support services, University of Wisconsin (UW) Health System in Madison

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Effective supply chain leaders set a clear vision for organizations. Over the last 24 months, the healthcare supply chain function has evolved. At Stanford Medicine, the supply chain team's core mission is to serve the healing hands that support patients. "I'm focused on the next-generation, clinically integrated supply chain, where we elevate our operations, systems and processes to make it easy for staff to do the right thing," Ms. Chawla said.

 Advantus Health Partners believes that supply chain is about strategic utilization of health resources to optimize the patient experience. "We want to bring the supply chain and clinical perspectives together, so we are working toward the same goals, metrics and analytics," Dr. Chung said. Like the other panelists, Mr. Pagan echoed the need for strategic alignment. "Supply chain isn't just transactional," he said. "We must understand the business from end to end, including how we support the physicians and clinicians taking care of patients."

  1. Networking is more important than ever. Historically, idea sharing and networking haven't been commonplace among supply chain leaders. This mindset is changing, however. "We have supply chain leaders and staff with brilliant ideas," Ms. Webb-Hapgood said. "We won't survive in this environment, if we don't share that information across organizations and help each other. We must reach out to one another in healthcare and beyond."
  1. Trusting relationships are the key to understanding the culture and successful strategy execution. One of Ms. Webb-Hapgood's top priorities has been learning the culture of different hospitals and clinics within the UW Health system. "You must be open-minded and take the time to soak up new information. Without that understanding, navigating change will be a hard journey," she said.

During the first six months in his new role, Mr. Pagan focused on people. "I met one-on-one with executives, supply chain leaders and every team member," he said. "That built trust, identified improvement opportunities and clarified what resources are needed for success." That upfront understanding enabled Mr. Pagan to create a compelling vision and plan. The Eskenazi Health team knew that the plan was a collective effort based on the input from team members across the organization. "When supply chain engages with clinicians and physicians, it builds trust," Mr. Pagan said.

  1. Trust is essential throughout the employee life cycle, including recruiting. The panelists underscored the importance of being honest and transparent with job applicants about the organizational culture. "If they ask hard questions, let's answer them," Ms. Webb-Hapgood said. "If we say everything is great and we know it's not, we run the risk of destroying trust."

When it comes to leadership transitions in supply chain, the importance of maintaining relationships with employees and stakeholders can't be underestimated. "Remember that you are improving and saving someone's life every day," Mr. Pagan said. "If you take care of your team members, they will ensure that the organization takes care of your patients."

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