By Korina Fischer
Have you been to the IDN Summit & Reverse Expo? If not, I highly recommend it – it’s an amazing event full of must-have information. I recently returned from the Spring 2022 summit, where I had the pleasure of speaking to some of the brightest minds in supply chain today.
One of them was Brent Petty, CMRP, a well-known and highly respected IDN supply chain expert. Now a consultant, Brent previously served as System Vice President, Supply Chain, for Wellmont Health System and as Chairman of the Board of the Association for Healthcare Resource Materials Management (AHRMM). Brent was kind enough to sit down with me for the following Q&A, and his insights are well worth the read:
Q: Starting at a high level, how do you describe the value of a clinically integrated supply chain?
A: First and foremost, a clinically integrated supply chain plays a crucial role in lowering the cost of care. To move that needle in a significant, sustainable way, you need to see and understand all real-world drivers behind your inventory and supply-related costs. That requires a deep connection between financial data and clinical data – which makes sense as IDNs and health systems aim to improve quality and patient outcomes while simultaneously reducing costs. A clinically integrated supply chain is essential for achieving those goals.
Among today’s IDN supply chain leaders, that mission is well understood. Anytime I’m asked about the biggest barriers, two things come to mind: bandwidth and expertise. The supply chain is very challenged, especially over the past two years, with having enough talent and know-how on board to manage that marriage between clinical and financial data.
Q: So, what is the key ingredient?
A: In healthcare, every decision is data-driven, so it is critical that our data is accurate, easy to understand, and easy to consume. We don’t need better data – at this point, we just need better use of the data we already have. That’s where technology partners really come into play. They are vital to filling gaps in our bandwidth, expertise, and our ability to report up the chain of command on important issues at the intersection of supply chain and system-wide strategic objectives.
Simply put, if information is easy to consume, it becomes much easier to apply it. The healthcare supply chain can drive that application forward by leveraging all the right data to meet enterprise strategic objectives around cost, quality, and outcomes.
Q: Let’s dive deeper into the marriage of financial and clinical data. In your own words, what does that look like?
A: I’ll give you an analogy: Think of the clinically integrated supply chain as the maestro of an orchestra. It’s the clinicians, patients, billing staff, and others who play the instruments and make the music, but the maestro is the central expert on whether the instruments are being played correctly. The maestro keeps watch, gives commands, sends signals, senses changes, controls volume, and so on. The supply chain can do that, too. They don’t absolutely control all the costs – and they certainly don’t influence all the quality – but they do sit at that intersection, and they can guide things to result in better synchronization and harmony.
Q: Speaking of improvement, what is most pressing opportunity for supply chain leaders today?
A: Value-based care. We moved away from it somewhat over the past two years with all the pandemic-related challenges, but with its growing impact on outcomes and revenue, value-based care is and will continue to be a critical success factor for the future of healthcare. What is value when it comes to care? Defining that and having the right KPIs to support it is key, but it can’t be complex. On the contrary, it must be simple, measurable, and repeatable. That won’t happen if you’re still working with spreadsheets, disparate data streams, and little more than historical ordering patterns. So again, technology is integral to success.
Q: How can supply chain leaders better support value-based care and similar initiatives?
A: I’ll take you back to 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was passed, an event that really thrust supply chain into the limelight. For the first time in history, quality measures became federal mandates, and we as healthcare supply chain professionals were challenged with putting it all together. Now, fast forward to 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our true weak points in the current structure. One of the biggest weaknesses we’re seeing now involves the elevated role of the chief supply chain officer (CSCO) – that executive, C-suite role.
To elevate that position effectively, the CSCO must have influence on the strategic imperatives of the health system. CSCOs must be at that table, and to do that, they need all the data that drives the financial and clinical decisions. They need to be well-equipped and well-positioned to facilitate that integration and make better use of the combined data. Only then can they move the dials in the right directions for better cost, quality, and outcomes across the system.
Q: What about the rest of the supply chain team – how do you see their roles changing?
A: Supply chain bandwidth and expertise will be greatly improved. I think you’ll see this escalate very quickly, as we are now in the recovery phase of the pandemic, but it’s going to have to be done through efficiencies. From a human resource perspective, supply chains are struggling, so improvement will have to come through automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. That means it has become imperative to make new investments in new technologies.
Purchase services and value analysis are key to the science of the future for the healthcare supply chain. Right now, supply chains are working off old technology and strained resources. It’s taking six, seven, eight, sometimes even a dozen people to support value analysis because the information management process is still so manual and inefficient. We have to modernize processes and technology to provide easily consumable data in support of better value analysis.
“From a human resource perspective, supply chains are struggling, so improvement will have to come through automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. That means it has become imperative to make new investments in new technologies.”
– Brent Petty, CMRP
Q: Looking out the next 5-10 years, what are the primary opportunities you see for IDN supply chains?
A: I think the act of becoming more resilient presents many opportunities within itself – from contributing to enterprise-level strategic initiatives all the way to providing better clinician support. When we think about the next 5-10 years, there are four fundamental strategic imperatives every U.S. hospital, health system, and IDN is focused on – we call it the quadruple aim – and the supply chain is well-aligned to support all four:
- Population health – All healthcare is delivered locally, so population health means taking care of our communities and addressing health inequities, often right down to the ZIP code level.
- Cost of care – We’re talking per capita cost, understanding how much it actually costs to treat a patient. With the right technologies and partners, the supply chain can provide that level of data in ways that allow decision-makers to react and plan more quickly and capably.
- Patient satisfaction – If you don’t do well in this area, you are penalized financially, so patient satisfaction is important for healthy revenue streams, which in turn is important for quality, cost, and access to care.
- Provider and staff satisfaction – Managing satisfaction at the workforce level reduces employee turnover. One of the easiest ways to achieve high patient satisfaction is to make sure the people impacting the patient experience feel satisfied in their day-to-day work.
Meeting these “quad aims” will absolutely be a primary strategic initiative going forward for supply chain teams.
Q: Thank you for sharing your perspectives with us today. Any final thoughts?
A: It comes down to this, and I’ve said this many times: The sign out front says health system, not business services, so care will always be first and foremost. But, the business side must be escalated and elevated to the clinical side, so that they’re equal on the backend. Why? Because it’s important to understand the impact the business side can have on that core mission of providing quality care and making people healthier. It can financially make you or break you. We need to elevate these back-office processes and give supply chain the funding and attention it deserves.
About MUUTAA and DemandAMP+
MUUTAA is leading the way forward for clinically integrated supply chains. In addition to optimizing the purchasing process through patient-driven demand, our AI-driven technologies enhance micro and macro-level understanding of real-world protocol and medication adherence. Powered by our machine learning platform, DemandAMP+ collects and analyzes all relevant data sources to improve demand sensing and predictive capabilities while eliminating manual data collection and analysis from your workflow. Contact MUUTAA today for more information.
About the author
Korina Fischer is the Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder of MUUTAA, a healthcare AI company focused on patient-driven demand for clinically integrated supply chains. She is a forward-thinking entrepreneur with 20+ years’ proven leadership in health IT ecosystems, pharmaceutical and medical device supply chains, clinical workflow, and relationship management. To contact Korina, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 581-398-0068.