Problem Solver: Joe Sheil

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In this new JHC Blog, we’ll ask supply chain professionals about a problem they’ve encountered recently and the solution they used to overcome it. It could cover driving down costs, physician preference items, standardization, staff realignment — just about anything. First up — Joe Sheil, director of contracting, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

The Problem: Getting his medical center’s Materials Management Information System (MMIS) user-community to make better use of the item master for clinical and physician-preference items not kept in inventory.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff in inventory for the OR, for general distribution and a lot of stuff in my item master for a lot of different departments,” says Sheil. “When we took a look at whether or not people were actually using [MMIS] and the item master the way we wanted them to, we found that many people — too many people — were not using the item master to a meaningful degree.” This created a lot of discrepancies and invoice-matching problems, Sheil says.

The Solution: Sheil says his department used a Lean Six Sigma technique called the 5 Why Process to work with a specific department, radiology. “They were  looking for inventory management improvement and we were looking for item master usage improvement and I thought that would be a good match,” he says. “We took up this project to try and figure out why people weren’t using the item master. So the technique we used, we basically kept asking the question ‘why’ until we got down to the root cause.”

The ‘whys’ they discovered included:

  • Some of the items weren’t in the item master for various reasons.
  • The item master functionality was not as robust and user-friendly as it needed to be.
  • Sheil discovered they didn’t have as many contracts covering the items as they should have.


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center upgraded its software, and tweaked the overall functionality and search functionality so people could search for the manufacturer’s product number, Sheil says. Sheil’s department and radiology now have a regular dialogue to identify items that radiology wants in the item master, and they’ve identified the top 80 percent of those items to verify they’re available in the item master and that the health system has contracts for them.

“When we started this exercise, radiology used the item master about 10 to 15 percent of the time,” Sheil says. “Today, they are using it 85 to 90 percent.”

Sheil says they plan on rolling out this process across departments on a regular basis, beginning with the Cath lab, then pathology, GI and others.

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