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Supply chain lessons from the pandemic

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | May 20, 2022
From the May 2022 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

That’s when we started stepping out, finding brokers getting stuff directly from China. We actually chartered a FedEx jet to fly 400,000 gowns directly to us. That’s not cheap. I knew it was going to be a big expense, but I was still totally shocked when I got the invoice.

HCB News: How can hospital supply chain leaders retain their seat at the table, as we (hopefully) put the pandemic behind us?
JF: The light, if you will, gets stuff here. So, we did that, and we began having weekly meetings with our leadership group. I had to report out, once a week, per hospital, how many days on-hand of each item they had in stock, who is approaching the danger area, who has some surplus. We were doing a lot of reallocation.

We came up with a report showing the same information that we began distributing every day to hospital leadership, all CEOs. In other words, being totally, totally transparent. And sometimes, I would have to say, for instance, if a market leader called me or emailed me to say, “What do you mean Memphis has got four days of gloves on here?” And I’d say, “Yeah, that's right. We’re trying to see who has some extra they can borrow from. By the way, our next shipment is due in two weeks.” It got kind of tight for a while there on several occasions.

But I think that the people at the table have seen the benefit that supply chain provides the organization. We need to be the go-to for anything they need, whether it's data, product, whatever. We need to be seen in that light, that if you bring something to us, we’re going to get it for you, no matter what the issue or problem is. Be proactive. Don’t wait for them to ask for it. I guarantee you, everyone on that mailing list didn’t open up that report every day, but at least we put it out there.

HCB News: From a data and analytics standpoint, how is supply chain management changing?
JF: Thankfully, at an exponential rate. All of our ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, they’re all going to the cloud. And what that will allow us to do, instead of having to use five, six, seven, eight different platforms to get the necessary information, you’ve got a single platform.

HCB News: Do you have any tips for keeping supply chain better aligned with the needs of hospitals and clinicians?
JF: Communication, communication, communication. Be fully transparent. We were letting all the facilities know where they stood. The CFOs, the key clinicians, would be notified. Just keeping them all in the loop.

HCB News: How do you imagine hospital supply chain might be different in the next three to five years?
JF: A lot more streamlining of processes that will be due to the cloud. They’ll be spending their time doing more than just simply shoving boxes around. They’ll be creating the reports.

For instance, nowadays, we have the capability to create reports that shows your supply expense per surgical case, by surgeon, broken down by individual line item. (We can say) by the way, surgeon B is using a lot more of this line item, and surgeons A, C and D don’t use it at all. It's a lot of comparative data.

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