Achieving operational and clinical efficiency in a supply-constrained environment

The COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare organizations and their supply chain partners to address shortages and solve operational challenges under extreme pressure.

During an October Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Cardinal Health, a panel of supply chain experts discussed how the healthcare industry can build resilience and efficiency into its supply chain. Panelists were:

  • Pete Bennett, senior vice president, global planning, Cardinal Health
  • Steve Marshall, vice president, Presource® Procedural Pack Solutions, Cardinal Health
  • Carol Pehotsky, associate chief nursing officer, surgical nursing, Cleveland Clinic

Four key takeaways were:

1. Providers and suppliers need to forge partnerships based on a "resiliency blueprint." The pandemic sent a clear signal that healthcare organizations must be better prepared for potential derailment to operations. Providers need improved access and visibility not only into their supply chain, but also into projected disruptions. "We worked with the Cleveland Clinic to identify areas that were important to both parties: developing a supply plan, a demand-to-delivery plan and a business continuity plan," Mr. Bennett said.

Beyond alignment, trust is another key element of building resiliency. "If I don't trust my suppliers when they say the product's coming, I may make impulsive decisions, I might partner with somebody else, I might start hoarding product," Ms. Pehotsky said. She stressed that trust is vital to guaranteeing that the availability of supplies is not dependent on the geography where those supplies are coming from.

2. Challenges to healthcare supply chains are likely to persist. Three key challenges are:

  • Volatility. This includes possible new strains of COVID, geopolitical tensions and natural disasters. "As an industry, we need to forecast for curveballs and can't get caught flat-footed," Mr. Marshall said, noting that providers need to be more proactive about risk prevention.
  • Talent crisis. Salaries for those who work in the healthcare supply chain are lagging behind, and burnout levels have increased. These factors are causing talent to leave.
  • Labor shortages. Increased staff mobility driven by a desire for higher pay and better working conditions is making it harder for providers to keep full-time talent. Mr. Marshall described this dynamic as "a vicious cycle of hiring and retraining."

3. Providers must keep the momentum for change ushered in by COVID. Part of that change was realizing that not all care provided in a particular setting — for example, at a hospital — needs to be provided there, yet reimbursement models often dictate such decisions. At the same time, "It's important to keep listening to those who are delivering care because we don't want to burn them out with the speed of change," Ms. Pehotsky said.

4. To drive optimization, resource use must be matched to clinical necessity. As economic pressures elevate the need for operational and clinical efficiency, caregivers should be encouraged to reduce waste by using medical supplies that match actual patient acuity and not the setting in which patient care is delivered. Further efficiencies can be found in improving inventory management databases so that health systems have visibility into item use-level data for every surgery in every location. 

Both of these approaches feed into a Cardinal tool called Presource® Customer Insights that optimizes surgical pack programs by comparing the packs a provider uses to a procedural template, as well as to other providers at regional and national level. "With this tool we can figure out and say [things like], 'Why does your total knee pack have 25 more components than someone else's down the street?' and be smarter together," Mr. Marshall said.

To register for upcoming webinars, click here.

Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars