'Serve with joy': Cleveland Clinic's supply chain officer on priorities and the supply chain ecosystem

Over the last year as Cleveland Clinic's chief supply chain and patient support services officer, Steve Downey has achieved a checklist of items that will make anyone tired just reading it. 

He has the kind of energy and enthusiasm for supply chain that speaks to someone who has found his calling. And as Mr. Downey puts it, "our job is best done as a service organization with all the energy, enthusiasm and intensity possible to overcome the myriad of challenges we face."

Mr. Downey has worked in supply chain roles for more than 30 years across multiple industries. Here, he answers Becker's five supply leader questions.

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

Question: What piqued your interest in healthcare supply chain?

Steve Downey: Supply chain is a great area for those who like to serve and who appreciate complex problems. It's a strategic asset for any organization that requires your best every day. Healthcare supply chain adds the patient, which makes it even more rewarding and even more challenging.

Q: What are a few of your top priorities for 2023?

SD: We have three goals in financial, resiliency and workforce optimization:

  • Financial pressures are severe in most healthcare organizations. Our focus is on price, efficiency and use, driving savings through smart sourcing, being efficient across how we operate and being cognizant of how products are being used clinically. 

  • Resiliency means ensuring we have the least number of disruptions to our clinical processes as possible. In 2022, we saw record numbers of supply disruptions and we're working to minimize that in 2023.

  • Workforce optimization means maximizing the efficiency of our workforce across operations and clinical labor, freeing up clinical time, using automation, and investing in training and retention.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment as chief supply chain officer?

SD: In my first year at Cleveland Clinic, we exceeded our savings targets, had double-digit growth in our clinically-focused PPI GPO Excelerate, set a new five-year strategy with a restructured leadership team, built even closer relationships with our clinical and organizational partners, launched operations in U.K. and grew Abu Dhabi, and strengthened our supply resiliency. 

Q: If you could pass along a piece of advice to other hospital supply chain leaders, what would it be?

SD: Serve with joy. Our job is best done as a service organization, at a strategic level, with all the energy, enthusiasm and intensity possible to overcome the myriad of challenges we face.

Q: What's the best piece of leadership advice you ever received?

SD: The best leaders taught me to always look at the ecosystem and focus on the people. No matter what role you have, you exist in an ecosystem of suppliers, distributors, patients, caregivers, government, community, advisors and much more. Understanding how it all works together and how everyone serves helps you succeed. And it's impossible to be successful without those people around you in that ecosystem. Pick the best and help them succeed and your supply chain will succeed as they do. 

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