Excellent Insights from Supply Chain Leader, Brent Johnson

Brent Johnson is Vice President of Supply Chain & Imaging Services and the Chief Purchasing Officer for Intermountain Healthcare, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the six years that he has been with Intermountain, Johnson has helped achieve approximately $220 million in savings.


Including his time at Intermountain, Johnson has spent more than 25 years in senior management and consulting, achieving significant success and savings by creating supply chain strategies for organizations like PacifiCorp Power & Light, ARUP Laboratories, and of course – Intermountain Healthcare.


During a recent interview, I asked Johnson what led him to develop such a passion and strength for supply-chain management and leadership. He explained how during his time with PacifiCorp his team was faced with the significant challenge of helping the company become a low-cost producer of electricity in order to ensure its longevity; “With this pressure and the understanding of the rigors and benefits of supply chain management, we obtained significant savings for the company. Experiencing this firsthand created a passion and commitment to learn and apply supply chain management best practices wherever I can,” Johnson said.


His passion and commitment has certainly paid off, as proven by Johnson’s admirable track record of savings! He attributes his latest successes at Intermountain Healthcare to three factors:

  • “Having senior leadership support and understanding that supply chain is a significant, key corporate strategy that deserves high-level investment.”
  • “Having talent sufficient to lead supply chain initiatives that physicians and hospital administrators will trust.”
  • “Having the right supply chain strategy, processes and technology.”


The leadership at Intermountain has recognized that Johnson’s talents are applicable to more than just supply chain management – asking him to take the lead in Intermountain’s Imaging Services as well. Johnson, though surprised to be asked to lead in an area where he had no technical training or expertise, accepted the challenge and today leads a leading-edge implementation of imaging services strategy. Johnson humbly says, “I don’t have clinical or hospital background, but they asked that I apply my business perspective and add value – which I have done.”


When asked about the most critical keys to his success and that of his team at Intermountain, Johnson listed five factors:

  • Support from senior leadership – “Healthcare executives must recognize the importance of managing supply chain as a critical corporate function.”
  • Communication and service – “Keep people informed at all levels in many ways. Be passionate about customer service… build trust and commitment.”
  • Talent  – “To lead change at Intermountain we must have the talent to stand before corporate leaders and physicians and ask for their cooperation. [Our team] must be analytical, strategic, and have leadership skills.”
  • Strategies  – “A knowledge of supply chain best practices and strategies is  important.”
  • Good data and good systems  – “Technology and information are key to supply chain success.”


At my request, Johnson also provided some advice and perspective for other healthcare supply chain executives who wish to improve their contributions to their companies:


“I believe that there are many things that most supply chain executives should do to expand their influence for improved contributions.  Those areas include:

  1. Learn how to manage your GPO.  I really believe GPOs play a critical role but they should be used as a “tool” not the total strategy.  You should develop and control your supply chain strategy.  Some of healthcare’s lack of supply chain talent is due to its dependence upon GPOs.
  2. Work on more than med-surg products.  There are many supply chains that support hospital operations and med-surg is only 30% of the costs.  Other supply chains that need just as much attention include: clinical products, IT, Clinical Engineering, Food & Nutrition, MRO, etc.
  3. Do more than just product management.  Services are just as big.  This includes many non-traditional areas including professional services, IT software, hardware, consulting, 3rd party contracts…even benefits.  These are all in scope of other industry supply chain strategies.
  4. Work on more than price.  Learn total cost of ownership strategies.  Find your best suppliers and grow them with improved outcomes as their goal.  Work with operations and clinicians for utilization management and product & process standardization.  Remove deviation from all products and processes.
  5. Always think out of the box.  Don’t get confined on traditional healthcare solutions and structures.  Work with others to develop new ideas.”

Great Advice from a successful healthcare leader!


Copyright © 2012 by Dan Nielsen, Founder

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership  – www.nihcl.com

America’s Healthcare Leaders  – www.americashealthcareleaders.com

Dan Nielsen Company – www.dannielsencompany.com

Cell 214-695-1292


1 Comment on "Excellent Insights from Supply Chain Leader, Brent Johnson"

  1. Great insight in here. In particular, “Work on more than med-surg products” and “Do more than product management – Services are just as big”. While hospitals have used vendor credentialing to get a handle of the role and impact of vendors in their clinical operations, many have overlooked what Brent highlights as a bigger impact — vendors outside med-surg. I think it’s because services are less tangible and not subject of inventory and tracking by unit.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.