Speaking of Supply Chain

Business & Supply Continuity…SMI’s Newest InitiativeJohn Lebowitz
By John Lebowitz, University of Tennessee

Patient Care should only be improved by our supply chain capability. I repeat, Patient Care should only be improved by our supply chain capability. Yep, imagine a world of no product shortages, 100% fill rates on all supplies, and the impact of pandemic events taken in stride. Is it possible? Yes, it is! Will it take a lot of work and collaboration? Of course!!! 

The is an enormous opportunity that is being addressed in many ways and by many players. SMI’s newest initiative intends to bring the collective power of our members and their associates together to research, discover, document, and identify recommendations for solving issues related to chronic product shortages; product shortage management during pandemic situations; to share best practices; and develop educational initiatives to improve capability in this area.
This is a very complicated problem to solve. Here are some of the implications:

  • How can we improve awareness of pending back orders’ shortages or outages to proactively plan so there is no interruption in patient care?
  • What is best way to communicate between trading partners to achieve #1?
  • What do healthcare organizations need to do in response?
  • What do industry suppliers/partners need to do to avoid shortages, backorders, and outages?
  • What new technology and capabilities can be deployed to improve the situation?
  • How can we improve fill rates through metrics, reporting, standards, and processes?
  • What are the related costs associated with ongoing product delivery issues?
  • What education/training programs need to be developed to improve supply chain skillsets?

The Problem

Healthcare providers are plagued with continual shortages on crucial and non-critical products, often without receiving advance notice from suppliers. Distributors are seeing a significant degradation of fill rates without knowledge of what’s causing those declines from product sources. Manufacturing companies struggle with spotty accurate demand information and lack of knowledge by the providers on how production decisions are made or what causes disruptions. Add the impact of pandemic caused product shortages and you have one of the biggest negative impacts across the spectrum of patient care we have. Not a new problem, but it continues to worsen.

Our Purpose

This team is committed to improving fill rates and operational efficiency throughout the entire value chain to prevent shortages, to better facilitate pandemic responses, and support operations to operations conversations. We will work to:

  1. Establish Improved Back Order and Shortages Management
  2. Develop Playbook for Crisis Management Within Supply Chain
  3. Enable Collaboration Across Supply Chains
  4. Foster Education

How Will We Do It

Our intent is to bring together operational talent from our membership across suppliers, distributors, and providers to be laser focused on solving the underlying problems of product shortages. We will also be collaborating with HIDA who shares our interest in connecting trading partners to address one of the industry’s most vexing problems. Lisa Hohman from Concordance Healthcare Solutions, Kreg Koford from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Steve Gundersen from BD will be the team leaders and I will provide guidance and project management for the team.

Traditional supply chain work processes and skillsets will not suffice. New innovative ways and tools to communicate, plan, and react to shortages are needed. We will perform analysis through detailed process maps of the product shortage processes generally used by healthcare providers and healthcare suppliers to surface opportunities for improvement. We will look to new tools and innovations to bring to bear on the problem. We will also develop new ways to help educate and train our supply chain associates in order to build out consistent skillsets in dealing with this critical part of our business model. We will also partner with innovate groups who are already working on providing solutions or have a keen interest in supporting this work.

Anyone interested in participating in this initiative please contact either myself or Christine.

Please let me know if you have any topics or interesting information you would like to share. Let’s keep the dialogue going!

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

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