Supply Chain & Clinical Specialty Areas: The Right People

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

As Sophie Rutherford mentioned in the last blog post, there are some well-established gaps between enterprise-wide supply chain processes and clinical specialty areas.  The problems that result include time spent by clinical staff in non-patient care activities, inventory issues including overstocking, high percentage of expirations and stock-outs, higher-than-needed costs and lower-than-needed visibility to supplies and actual velocity.  In this post, I’ll be discussing the first step to begin closing these gaps.

The first step in this collaborative effort seems simple enough – just get people involved.  As simple as it may seem, the key here is to get the right people involved.  Start by answering a few quick questions:

  1. Do you know how clinical areas work?
  2. Do you know who works in them?
  3. How are supplies in those areas inventoried, restocked or ordered? And finally…
  4. Where are those areas even located in the hospital?  Have you been there?

Unless you know how these areas function, you may not fully appreciate the challenges they’re facing.  And if you don’t know the people that work in these areas, you won’t be able to select team members that will provide input that will help.

Then take the first step – start by getting in touch with the managers of those departments.  See if they’re willing for you to observe the flow of the department. Odds are you have willing partners among the management teams in these areas.  Approach them by saying “I’d like to see if we can offer some ways to free up clinical staff, so their time is more devoted to clinical processes and procedures. I think I can help provide a positive effect of your budget, by doing things like reducing expired products.” 

You might get immediate support if they’ve already recognized some of the issues that we have identified.  If they haven’t, this is your opportunity to point out a few challenges and offer solutions.  They’ll probably want to know more. If they cannot allow you access to observe the flow of the department, ask for a tour and to meet the person doing the actual ordering.  This gets you an opportunity to meet the players – then you can see who has the best understanding of how things are done now, and who’s open-minded enough to see how things could be and how supply chain can help. 

Next, engage your supply chain staff. They’ll have valuable opinions and ideas – encourage them to share those ideas. Working with the clinical areas will directly impact them, including their workload and visibility in what could be less-than-receptive work areas.  Discussing change as early as possible is the most effective way to create change – and be sure to discuss what’s driving change.  If your team needs to absorb more duties, giving them an understanding of why and providing an opportunity to offer input, will help drive engagement, not resentment. Make them active members of the team. 

Now, you’re ready for the next step. In the next blog, we’re going create collaborative partnerships, so stay tuned…