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    Strengthening Healthcare Systems: The Vital Role of Supply Chain Collaboration

    Posted by: Cory Turner | October 17, 2023

    Supply Chain Collaboration 

    The past few years have proven the strategic value of supply chain collaboration, and we can’t afford to let that momentum slow. Higher expenses/lower revenues necessitate cost containment, value-based reimbursements require improved clinical outcomes, and increased competition from outside of the traditional healthcare sector demands innovation — all of which supply chain can influence.  

    My challenge to healthcare supply chain leaders: use the next three months to connect with colleagues from other healthcare disciplines and identify impactful initiatives to pursue collaboratively in 2024.  

    Here are three key areas for collaborative improvement to guide conversations and planning:

    1. Supply Chain Collaboration for Optimized Patient Care and Efficiency

    Four in five registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. experience high levels of stress at work and nearly one-third of them say they are likely to leave the profession for another career. There are too few nurses to care for patients; the ones who are employed by healthcare facilities are burnt out, and with more RNs leaving or retiring, the situation is only getting worse. 

    Tip 1: Supply chain professionals can alleviate the burden of supply management and documentation for nurses, so they can focus their limited time and resources on clinical care delivery. Speak with your clinical colleagues, find out where gaps in supply management are burdening them with administrative work (e.g., inventory management, point of use item data capture) and collaboratively identify ways to bridge the gaps.  

    Case in point: Concord Hospital returned more than 5,800 hours of clinical time through point of use (POU) inventory management.  

    Streamlining and optimizing supply management also benefits patients by helping ensure the availability of necessary medical supplies and keeping potentially dangerous items out of circulation (e.g., recalled items, expired items).  

    2. Supply Chain Collaboration for Cost Savings and Resilience 

    Chief financial officers (CFOs) bear a tremendous burden amid the ongoing economic crisis in the healthcare sector. “Hospitals and health systems will need to be financially strong and healthy in order to keep their patients and communities healthy,” stated the American Hospital Association (AHA) in its September 27, 2023, blog post, but this is no easy task. 

    While chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) and CFOs both recognize that supplies are an expensive but necessary and important part of care delivery, there’s inevitably some push and shove around where to implement cost cuts  without compromising quality. Maintaining resiliency as a top priority, supply chain leaders are likely hesitant to jeopardize a reliable and safe supply source in exchange for cheaper products from an untested supplier. 

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    Tip 2: Engage with your financial counterparts to discuss mutual challenges you face going into 2024 and identify potential ways to save money while ensuring continuity and quality of care. For example, there is a tremendous amount of financial waste in the healthcare supply chain that happens after products have been purchased and received, and proven methods to address them. Here are a few examples: 

    • Improved physician preference card accuracy: Sanford Health achieved $1.4 million in savings (not including labor and productivity gains). 

    3. Supply Chain Collaboration for Innovation, Compliance, and Transparency 

    As healthcare supply chain management has evolved from disjointed systems and manual documentation to end-to-end integration and automation, a growing need for closer collaboration with information technology (IT) teams has emerged.  

    Tip 3: Continue your conversations with your IT counterparts to determine where you can further consolidate and streamline systems and processes associated with supply management from receipt through to POU. In doing so, your team will have greater transparency and control over supplies throughout your health system or hospital, and IT will have fewer systems to manage and maintain. 

    Tip 4: As you look to extend supply chain management improvements throughout your organization, take the opportunity to also engage with your pharmacy leaders. With CFOs looking everywhere for cost containment opportunities, drug costs rising and clinicians faced with growing drug shortages, this is the ideal time to apply proven medical/surgical supply chain practices and technology platforms to pharmaceutical inventory management.  

    Case in point: Parkview Health is set to save $8 million per year by minimizing drug obsolescence and reclaim over $193 million in uncharged supplies to become billable items over a ten-year period.  

    Drug management consolidation within a single enterprise-wide solution also sets the foundation to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) requirements around tracking and tracing of drug products down to the unit level, which are scheduled to go into effect on November 27, 2023. 

    Fall conference season is upon us – take advantage of networking opportunities 

    If you are attending any of the healthcare conferences coming up in the next few months, don’t miss out on opportunities to connect with other healthcare supply chain leaders and those in other healthcare disciplines (e.g., clinical, financial, IT, pharmacy).  

    Everyone is looking ahead and working to identify ways to improve the financial stability of their organizations, the well-being of their caregivers and the quality of care to their communities. Engaging in collaborative conversations and sharing best practices drives individual improvements and strengthens the overall industry. 

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