5 questions with Tuft Medical Center's head of supply chain

Chris Johnson has served as head of supply chain at Tufts Medical Center in Boston since 2015.

Prior to this role, he acted as the hospital's supply chain operations manager for three years. Mr. Johnson comes from a diverse supply chain background. From 2011 to 2013, he served as the director of perioperative services for Owen & Minor, a Virginia-based logistics company. Before then, he worked at Yankee Alliance, an Andover, Mass.-based group purchasing organization, for six years and spent five years as a contract analyst and value analysis coordinator at Boston Children's Hospital. From 1996 to 2000, Mr. Johnson served in the U.S. Army as an active duty logistics specialist.

Mr. Johnson spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about beneficial supply chain practices and the challenges hospital supply chains face today.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What changes, if any, have you implemented to improve efficiency and reduce waste in Tufts' supply chain?

Chris Johnson: The biggest thing we've done is create a new value analysis program for our supply chain that is comprised of three different subgroups focusing on patient care, cardio vascular and perioperative services. The program's committee is made up of value analysis managers and a wide variety of hospital staff members that monitor and approve any product changes or requests. We created an online form that people can fill out to request a product change, which is then sent to the value analysis committee, which discusses the benefits and logistics of purchasing the product.

The introduction of value analysis has really allowed us to build up the communication model and let people know that any product changes need to come through this group. We're making a cultural change through education. I'm not going to tell clinicians what supplies they can and can't use, but there are rules and processes that need to be followed, and the system we have in place now allows for quicker and analytically supported decisions to be made.

Q: What is the biggest supply chain challenge you're currently dealing with?

CJ: We're struggling to keep up with company mergers and acquisitions. It seems to go in waves, and right now we're riding a tidal wave. They can cause a lot of confusion for staff and clinicians and it hampers negotiations for supply chain. For example, Medtronic just acquired Covidien. If our nurses aren't made aware of this acquisition, they may not be able to recognize products on the shelf due to packaging changes or rebranding of products. Luckily, our value analysis committee allows us to get the right people in the right room, creating a very quick path to identify and address supply chain issues like rebranding confusion or recalls.

Q: What kinds of technology do you find most effective for managing inventory and why?

CJ: This is an easy question for me — RFID. While the system is a little front-end heavy for my team to tag items when they arrive at the hospital, it is so much easier to track them in the long run. The system is very web-based. I can efficiently track an item — know what room it's stored in, what time it was used, which case it was used in — which is extremely helpful if there is human error. Some products even come to our hospital pre-tagged now, which is nice.

Q: How does supply chain affect patient care? What supply chain practices allow for better quality care?

CJ: I know it sounds cliché, but we take a lot of pride in having the right product in the right place. We never want to delay the start of a case because we don't have what's needed. If this does happen, there's a lot of due diligence that occurs to see what went wrong and how we can prevent it in the future. I also take pride in the fact that we don't have the mindset that cost comes first. We're willing to spend more money on supplies or products that will allow for better outcomes and safer practices, while keeping patient satisfaction at the highest level possible.

Q: Are there any regulatory changes regarding supply chain practices that you hope to see in the future? 

CJ: The regulation of IV fluids scares me to death, since there are two companies that control 90 percent of the market. Last summer, one company shut down for a small amount of time, which greatly impacted hospitals' ability to get the most basic supply needed in healthcare. What if the company had to shut down for a longer period of time because there was a fire on its production line? There are other players in the IV fluid market, but they're not equipped to handle the size of the demand during a crisis. While the government got involved and asked companies keep larger stockpiles, last summer highlighted a major issue we are going to continue to face with all mergers and acquistions.

 

More articles on supply chain:

'Pain refugees' travel out of Montana for access to opioid prescriptions
FDA provides guidance for medical device tracking: 4 things to know
The shortage continues: Red Cross desperate for blood donations

 

 

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