Becker's Hospital Review 11th Annual Meeting —3 key takeaways from 3 supply chain panels

As hospitals and health systems confront the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, stakeholders are beginning to view supply chains as the strategic assets they have always been. Supply chain leaders are strategic advisers crucial to delivering value for both patients and bottom lines. 

The Becker’s Hospital Review’s 11th Annual Meeting in May of 2021 devoted an entire track of the conference to discussing supply chain excellence. Leaders from all touch points of the supply chain, including suppliers, distributors, and providers, gathered to participate in several conversations – sponsored by Cardinal Health -- focused on supply chain excellence. Here are three key takeaways from those three supply chain panels:

Panel 1: The best investments and strategies to maximize your supply chain. Featuring Ben Thompson, Senior Vice President Product and Solutions Sales, Cardinal Health; Tony W. Johnson, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, Baylor Scott & White Health; and Kevin Fleming, Chief Operating Officer, Clinical Program Services, Providence.  

Key takeaway: Invest in data and strategic relationships for an optimized supply chain.

The best investment to help reduce clinical variation is data. When there is variability in spend, it becomes crucial to look at the data and see exactly what those variations bring. Sometimes variation can lead to better clinical outcomes—however if this is not the case, and often times it is not, then increased standardization might be necessary. When a health system chooses to invest in data, it becomes fundamental to implement the right processes that complement the data.  One best practice is to look at benchmark data and investigate what “good” looks like in response to variation and integrate this information into your demand plans.

In addition to data, investing in relationship building is key to the maximizing supply chains. No matter where you sit along the different touch points of the supply chain, it is crucial to bring feedback to your partners, incorporate bi-direction communication, and listen to key stakeholders. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for full transparency and visibility through the entire supply chain –including the upstream supply chain all the way back to manufacturers – has been elevated. Invest in relationships with those suppliers and distributors who recognize the need for increased visibility, and who are making actionable changes to execute on that goal.

Panel 2: Navigating change and using technology to increase productivity. Featuring Shawn McBride, Vice President and General Manager, WaveMarkTM Workflow Solutions, Cardinal Health; Dave Marcelletti, Vice Chair, Supply Chain, Mayo Clinic; and Charles Miceli, Network Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, The University of Vermont Health Network.

Key takeaway: Focus on people and processes before applying technology for a resilient supply chain. 

While it is important to enhance analytics platforms to get a better view of what is happening in supply chains, health systems need to focus on people and processes before applying technology. First,  applying technology to broken processes will not fix them. Many industries have become fully digitized in recent years, and healthcare supply chains seem to be moving in the same direction. It will become crucial for health systems interested in using more technology to look inward and find opportunities to increase current processes before they become digitized.

In addition, attracting and retaining supply chain talent is a critical component of health system success. Resilient supply chains need resilient leaders who have the ability to build relationships with clinical staff and the rest of the enterprise.  The pandemic demonstrated this need to build more resilient supply chains, and also emphasized the importance of supply chain leaders having a seat at the table when it comes to strategic decision making. During times of crisis there are so many moving parts and disconnected pieces, that disjointedness can seem like distrust, which is not the case. The secret to changing this misconception is increased transparency through better collaboration among suppliers, distributors, and providers. We need to connect people, processes and technology to know exactly what is happening in the supply chain.

Panel 3:  From disruption to transformation: How to become a next-gen supply chain leader. Featuring Robert Rajalingam, President of U.S Sales, Cardinal Health; Rob Ciamarra, Senior Vice President of Global Procurement, Manufacturing and Supply Chain, Cardinal Health; and Joe Walsh, Founder, Supply Chain Sherpas.

Key takeaway: Disruption can become an opportunity for transformation. 

Strategic partners, such as distributors and manufacturers, can provide healthcare supply chain leaders with the solutions and visibility needed to elevate supply chain and clinical performance. “Supply chain leaders must build the connective tissue across different stakeholders to communicate and share data effectively,” Mr. Rajalingam said. “Good decisions are enabled by good information, and good information comes from well-organized data.” For example, Cardinal Health has invested millions to create predictive supply health and global planning capabilities for its healthcare partners.

Much of this is driven by healthcare organizations taking a more holistic approach to the total cost of their supply chain investments and expenses and focusing on resiliency. To gain insight into total cost of ownership, health systems must first gather information from well-organize data. This will allow health systems to introduce more rigor into business processes, from sourcing to logistics and purchasing processes. To read the full recap of this panel, click here

For even more supply chain insights and best practices, visit our supply chain center.

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