Supply Chain & Clinical Specialty Areas: Collaborative Teams

By Rita Antis, CMRP, Materials Manager, Perioperative Services, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center

Now that you’ve established a dialog with clinicians in each of the specialty areas, the next step is to engage them in a collaborative team approach.  Let’s start by understanding that clinicians can provide deep clinical knowledge of the supplies that they use, including specific requirements based on their expertise. Conversely, supply chain can provide an understanding of inventory methodology and logistical considerations. Leverage each other as subject matter experts – and build benefits for everyone. 

The clinician is approaching the availability of supplies with a different mindset. Be aware of this because it will impact the collaborative effort.  Here is a scenario driving the clinician’s behavior:  Once, 5 years ago, Dr. Jones wanted some “ditzel” that he absolutely had to have.  Since the hospital did not have it, he expressed his displeasure (although perhaps not in the calmest and most understanding manner).  Having experienced this, the clinician made sure the ditzel was purchased – and even purchased several boxes, costing several thousand dollars, to make sure they were covered if it ever came up again. We all know how this story ends.  All those boxes of ditzels expired because Dr. Jones never again needed a ditzel. 

A key point in this collaborative effort will be to help clinicians to understand that this reactionary response to an event is not conducive to any type of inventory management measures and it is very cost prohibitive to the expense budget of the department.  Conversely, supply chain must be aware that even though this was a reactionary response to an event, the clinician is the one who had to face the displeasure of the doctor and we have to empathize with that.  We have to gain the confidence of the clinicians.  And these collaborative teams are a big step in the right direction.

The next step for the teams to take will be to define shared goals among the team members, leading to

  1. A roadmap of the future state
  2. A strong, ongoing community of collaborative thinkers
  3. Ongoing communication through meetings, conference calls, emails
  4. Scheduled times to measure and re-evaluate progress, creating continual process improvements

In the next blog, we’re going to discuss first steps in bringing inventory management practices into the Clinical Specialty Areas, with some specific ideas for ways to get started.