7 supply chain leaders on the issue they would fix overnight 

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and other global factors have created a variety of supply chain issues for healthcare systems across the U.S.

This compilation features guidance from seven leaders at six systems who shared insights with Becker's via email. 

Question: If you could fix one supply chain issue overnight, what would it be and why?

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Nausheen Ahmed, Director of Supply Chain Optimization, and Jerry Dea, Executive Director of Supply Chain Resiliency at Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles): We believe visibility to inventory stock levels by item from all suppliers and manufacturers, especially within the healthcare space, is one issue that necessitates a change. If we had a magic wand, we'd create a portal where this information and potential supply disruptions are readily available. The suppliers and manufacturers would identify the surplus they could sell and allow health systems to purchase. We've taken the first step with one of our prime distributors and hope to extend to some key manufacturers. This will free up time searching for supplies when shortages occur and allow our staff to focus on activities that allow us to continue to heal and serve our community to the greatest extent possible.

Gary Rakes. Chief Supply Chain officer at Aspirus Health (Wausau, Wis.): If I could fix one item, I would greatly invest in supply chain technology and leverage new sources of data to improve the overall supply chain and our ability to upgrade the patient care experience.  Healthcare is more reliant on the supply chain than ever before, but as an industry we tend to underfund this critical part of our organization, and we greatly lag behind other industries.  Enhanced technology will make our supply chain more robust and nimble, increase resiliency, provide higher levels of transparency, enable improved demand planning, be more responsive to customer needs, and ultimately provide a more reliable and accurate supply chain that our caregivers and patients truly and richly deserve.

Jack Hahn. Vice President of Supply Chain at Parkview Health (Fort Wayne, Ind.): Eliminating back orders would fix a monumental problem facing healthcare. However, back orders are the result of several contributing factors: reliance on fragile overseas manufacturing, global raw material shortages, shipping and transportation delays, and worldwide labor shortages. While it’s impossible to do overnight, resolving these issues would improve safety, quality and outcomes for patient care across the industry.

John Black. Chief Supply Chain officer at CoxHealth (Springfield, Mo.): I think every supply chain leader right now would love to have a magic wand that would instantly cure the back-order world in which we are all operating. However, knowing this fairy tale dream will never come true, clear supply visibility and predictability would be magical in its own sense. One of my most pressing priorities right now is to get out of reactive inventory management and become much more strategic in nature. We are doing our best to anticipate future supply shortages, yet our best right now seems to yield inventory levels that are too high, critically low or out of stock entirely.  The constant changes in lead time calculations and hunt for clinically acceptable substitutes is exhausting, disruptive and expensive. If I could solve one supply chain issue overnight it would be to produce a set of inventory predictability analytics that would foster our ability to appropriately manage inventory and/or solve supply shortages long before they became issues.

John Dockins. Executive Director of Supply Chain Management at Cleveland Clinic: Unrestricted access to perfect goods and service data available via real-time automation. Data, and specifically perfect data, is the key behind accurate business decisions that drive growth and minimize risk to hospital operations. Data through real-time automation enables proactive responses to business needs, while being unrestricted allows for the sharing of data across health systems and the supplier ecosystem. Having data available in this way would have transformational impacts to the entire healthcare industry in a way that positively impacts patient care through improving supply chain resiliency, home health initiatives and financial viability.

Burton Fuller. Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at Johns Hopkins Health System (Baltimore): It would be back orders. The frequency and sporadic nature of buys across all categories being impacted by unforeseen delays and in shipping and manufacturing disruptions. It has become incredibly resource-intense for our team to triage the impact of these events. We are doing what we can to try and be proactive and get ahead of these disruptions, through manually calling and confirming estimated time of arrivals for orders with critical vendors and critical supplies. A lot of the ETAs that we get from manufacturers, we've learned, are inaccurate when they're provided through EDI Transaction Sets, the text portals, etc., and so we're having to manually call, confirm and validate ETAs that we receive. In regard to the inaccuracy of estimated times for arrival, a technical solution is implementing advanced ship notices. There's still a timeline between order and shipments. 

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