Embracing Change

With an eye to the future, Deborah Petretich Templeton ensures Geisinger Health System remains an industry leader.

As accountable care organizations become the predominant model for healthcare delivery, IDNs will need to transform the way they provide care – particularly as more care is delivered outside of hospitals, at outpatient centers. Geisinger Health System, for one, is extending its scope to include outpatient facilities, such as nursing centers and ambulatory surgical centers. The IDN also has developed multidisciplinary clinical-use evaluation teams, which are clinician-led and supported by its supply chain team. While maintaining its focus on efficiency, standardization and cost-savings, the teams can make clinically relevant product and equipment decisions.

Transforming a supply chain from one focused on delivering supplies, to one that supports patient care, requires strong leadership and oversight. At Geisinger Health System, Deborah Petretich Templeton, RPH, MHA/vice president, supply chain services, has taken the helm, beginning with the launch of project HELP, designed to increase efficiency in the IDN’s nursing department, followed by a move toward expanding patient care beyond the bedside. If her experience at Geisinger has taught her one thing, it’s that “the patient is always the center of the day,” she says. “If we have not contributed to the delivery of quality outcomes, improved patient health or cost-effective care every day, we have not done our job.”

Meeting the challenge
Prior to joining the supply chain division at Geisinger Health System, Templeton worked in the IDN’s pharmacy department, first as an intern in 1980, and then as a staff pharmacist beginning in 1981. She assumed her current position in 2000. “My past clinical work as a pharmacist has given me experience with formulary management, clinician interactions, as well as an understanding of medical procedures and terminology – all of which [are conducive] to building better processes to support clinicians,” she says. Today, she oversees four acute and 78 non-acute facilities, accounting for over $400 million in annual supply spend. Her supply chain responsibilities include procurement, sourcing, contracting, logistics, patient transport, linen, central sterile processing and mail activities throughout the health system.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding projects Templeton has headed at Geisinger Health System in the past year is the launching of HELP (Healthcare Enabled Logistics Program). “Supply chain, in conjunction with nursing and a small team of process engineers and student interns, has completed a study that shows about 18 percent of a nurse’s day is consumed in logistics activities, which take them away from patient care,” she explains. The supply chain division’s goal is to make process changes that result in greater efficiency in nursing, enabling nurses to focus as much as possible on patient care, she notes.

“Our first redesign began in the linen delivery area,” she continues. “We have moved away from exchange carts and now deliver linen five times a day to nursing units. This was done with no additional staff, and has resulted in the elimination of phone calls for additional linen, as well as eliminated rework, resulting in linen cost savings and increased nursing satisfaction. This is only one part of the HELP journey. We have many more ideas in process and have applied for grants to help us continue the work.”

HELP is but one part of broader goal at Geisinger Health System, says Templeton. “The HELP project is part of a larger strategy to move supply chain to a new model called Care Support Services,” she says. “Recognizing that the patient care areas are expanded beyond the bedside, the model will continue to develop in all care areas. The ideas emanating from project HELP include the application of new technology, cultural changes and a willingness to push boundaries beyond traditional methods. [The model] relies heavily on collaboration between multiple departments, with anticipated outcomes [designed to] drive a higher quality of care delivery and more cost-effective methods, all benefiting the patients that we care for.”

Partnering with the right suppliers has been key to enabling Templeton to achieve her goals. Which is why she looks for suppliers that demonstrate a “willingness to look at root cause analysis of issues and make an honest attempt at fixing and improving things,” she points out. “Successive, small successes in this area result in bigger wins and long-term partnerships.”

In years to come, with the growth of new care delivery models, such as accountable care organizations, she anticipates a number of industrywide changes. “This could include one contracting party on behalf of many; the elimination of class of trade, as we are accountable for the care of patients across the continuum; and the development of safe harbors for information sharing, contracting, etc. to [benefit] the new models.” Moving forward with HELP and Care Support Services, she aims to help Geisinger Health System embrace such changes, while remaining an industry leader.

About the Author

Laura Thill

Laura Thill is a contributing editor for The Journal of Healthcare Contracting.