Reflections on the Clinician-Supply Chain Relationship Through the Lens of Crisis

Steve Kiewiet, Intalere leader

by Daria Byrne, Chief Strategy Officer, CSI and Steve Kiewiet, Chief Commercial Officer, Intalere

The paramount focus on the relationship between the clinician and the supply chain has become even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is so much to be learned from what we are dealing with in terms of improving processes impacting clinical care delivery.

For the last decade, clinical integration and supply chain-physician relationships, have been heavily focused on physician-preference items (PPI). What ultimately brought the industry its biggest challenge has been personal protective equipment (PPE). An area where supply chain hasn’t engaged clinicians in a long time. Supply chain and CFOs have been so focused on unit cost savings, inventory reductions, supplier reductions, just-in-time delivery systems, etc. that we didn’t put proper value on risk management. What if we had spent more time building in resiliency expectations and data transparency requirements with true inventory and demand tracking systems? If we could build our clinical relationships and our supply chain management and decision systems, all over again in light of COVID-19, what would it look like?

These learnings will improve the relationship between these two functions which is of the utmost importance. Here are three considerations healthcare organizations should reflect on as these critical healthcare partners – supply chain and frontline clinicians – move forward together.

  • Maintaining Trust –Because of supply challenges related to the crisis, trust between the two functions may have suffered some negative impacts. Healthcare organizations must seek to rebuild and grow this trust. Once the crisis subsides, conduct a retrospective review…together. Form focus groups comprised of the two functions and allow both sides to reflect on the crisis in tandem. Comprise mitigation plans which serve and appease both constituent groups. Most importantly, ensure the two functions are listening to one another. Acknowledge one another and make process improvement plans – together.
  • Culture Modification – There’s no better time to acknowledge that ‘we could have done better,’ ‘we should have done better’ and ‘we need to do things differently from this point forward.’ The prior supply chain – frontline clinician culture must evolve and grow from what it once was. Healthcare organization leadership must examine and acknowledge the inextricable link between these two paramount functions. This pandemic speaks volumes to the importance of a well-orchestrated relationship, and exposed weaknesses and vulnerabilities in processes previously believed to be satisfactory. Healthcare leadership can take this opportunity to examine existing culture and embed a newfound culture within your organization which emphasizes continuous collaboration between these two critical functions.
  • Communication – Communication is everything in times of crisis. Transparent communication is even more critical, as is the critical need to feel “in-the-know.” Frontline clinicians feel this way even during times of non-crisis. The supply chain function should embrace collaborative and transparent communication with the frontline clinician. And vice versa. Open lines of communication and allow frontline clinicians to have an everyday seat at the Supply Chain table. Proactively communicate any changes in supplies to prevent the disruption of clinical care delivery. Champion buy-in from supply chain and clinical leaders. Most importantly, allow both functions to witness a greater effort of transparent communication from the top-down.

There have been so many opportunities to observe, research and learn during this pandemic, and, undoubtedly, healthcare organizations will continue to uncover more opportunity in the coming days. Rebuilding a strong frontline clinician, supply chain foundation through trusting relationships, culture modification and transparent communication will be paramount moving forward. This pandemic has magnified the inextricable link between these critical functions. Let’s put forth a purposeful, collaborative effort to emphasize the importance of the relationship of the frontline clinician and the supply chain, now and moving forward.

We Can Help

Intalere provides a number of resources that can assist in the area of supply chain, as well as many other areas of your healthcare facility. Please reach out to us to see how we can help. Contact Customer Service at 877-711-5600 or customerservice@intalere.com or your Intalere representative.

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