Data accuracy, clinical integration & more: 3 takeaways from AHRMM's Supply Chain Conference

It's no secret the healthcare industry is evolving amid reimbursement changes, care shifting to non-acute settings and four generations of patients all seeking healthcare at once. Stuck between old and new technologies, the industry is trying to find the balance between the lessons of the past and the possibilities of the future.

At the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management Healthcare Supply Chain Conference Aug. 12-15 in Chicago, the complexities of this hybrid world between the old and the new were abundantly clear, but supply chain leaders at the conference challenged themselves to find solutions. Overall, AHRMM set a goal for its 4,000 members to be viewed as leaders on how supply chain excellence can drive the industry shift to value-based healthcare and how they can help their organizations succeed in this new environment.

Here, we ask Lisa Zierten, director of marketing for hospital services at Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, about her key takeaways from the conference:

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

Question: What is one key takeaway from the conference?

Lisa Zierten: A clinically integrated supply chain is no longer optional. The topic was present in many conversations and presentations at the conference. If you don't have a clinician on your team, you need to demonstrate value to gain their support. Low levels of collaboration can result in unnecessary supply expense. In fact, Cardinal Health's recent Hospital Supply Chain Survey revealed that the fear of not having needed supplies compels 51 percent of operating room clinicians responding to hoard supplies to ensure they have what they need to care for their patients. Supply variation may also unwittingly contribute to variation in clinical practice.  

The goal of a clinically integrated supply chain is to deliver high-value patient care to achieve the best outcomes and minimize waste. This can be best achieved through active engagement between supply chain and clinicians. The key to integrating clinicians is through evidence-based data that supports safe, efficient and equitable patient care.   

Q: Is there any advice you found helpful and want to pass on to supply chain administrators?

LZ: There was valuable advice as the conference discussed current disruptions and some areas supply chain administrators can focus on today to combat those changes. I don't think the disruptions the healthcare industry is facing — changes in reimbursement costs, mergers and acquisitions, and increased expectations for supply chain — are a surprise. But, there is value to knowing which areas supply chain administrators can focus on today to be prepared for the disruptions.

The focus must be placed on talent attraction, development and retention, as well as change management. Over the next five years, the turnover rate is expected to double to 68.7 percent for physicians and 62.7 percent for nurses, according to the 2017 HIDA Acute Market Report. Job satisfaction is listed as the primary reason for turnover. Supply chain administrators must invest in education and retention to maintain talent. With M&A, supply chain administrators must be prepared for consolidation with agile staff, flexible workplans and an attitude to adapt quickly. 

Q: Was there anything else you found interesting at the conference?

LZ: When looking for ways to reduce costs, nothing can be overlooked. An interesting area that might be overlooked, due to lack of visibility, is direct manufacturing spend. The direct supply chain can create a lack of data transparency, inconsistent service levels and premium freight charges. Moving away from a direct supply chain to a new model that leverages distribution augmented by 3PL, LUM and automated inventory management approaches can help reduce costs in a number of ways. First, an integrated supply chain creates the opportunity for better contract negotiations through volume. Additionally, the burden of labor is reduced by receiving and processing direct manufacturer shipments, and you have full visibility of the inventory across your system, which simultaneously lowers the risks of having expired products.

The Cardinal Health Hospital Supply Chain Survey was fielded Nov. 2 - Nov. 15, 2017, using an online survey methodology. The samples were drawn from SERMO's Online Respondent Panel of Health Care Providers, which includes more than 600,000 medical professionals in the U.S. The study included 305 respondents from healthcare organizations varying in size, specialty and practice area. Respondents included 128 frontline clinicians, 100 operating room supply chain decision-makers and 77 hospital/supply chain administrators. All survey data is on file at Cardinal Health.

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