A Supply Chain Hub Executive Interview
Bruce Radcliff, Systems VP, Supply Chain with Advocate Aurora Health (AAH), recently discussed many topics surrounding the Midwestern healthcare system’s supply chain operations and the pandemic with Maria Hames, a partner with HealthCare Links, for the Learning from Leaders Webinar Series with ANAE, the Association of National Account Executives. AAH is based in Illinois and Wisconsin.
The conversation’s highlights included:
1. Value analysis is a taboo phrase at AAH
Value analysis programs of the past have been focused on cutting costs and using subpar products if you ask clinicians, according to Radcliff. AAH has moved to a service line integration model, incorporating clinicians and all on the service lines, asking questions surrounding optimization and value creation for the patient.
“It’s a more collaborative environment than before,” said Radcliff. “We’re relying on the service lines to guide us through.” Radcliff added that AAH’s structure is still traditional as a site-based operations and logistics and sourcing supply chain but is unique in how it interacts. “We’re traditional but different,” he emphasized.
2. The Midwestern health system utilizes immense data sets
Midwestern people don’t migrate much, according to Radcliff, and therefore AAH utilizes large cradle-to-grave data sets. “That’s where analytics starts becoming a differentiator within the supply chain,” said Radcliff. “We have immense data sets and a singular EHR between the two states [Illinois and Wisconsin]. Our data mining is rich and robust. Analytics in our supply chain allows us to look at things differently but to look at it in scale.
“For example, if I’m looking at total joint, I’m not pulling hips, knees and shoulders from two or three sites. I’m pulling them from 30. I have over 100 physicians practicing the same standard procedure in different venues of care. I have an ecosystem of data and the analytics team is poised to help us understand what is actually driving value.”
Radcliff described AAH as a large system in a small space, taking up as much capacity in Illinois and Wisconsin as possible with 27 hospitals, over 500 points of care and over 50 surgery centers all within four-and-a-half hours of each other.
3. Improving supply chain resiliency post-pandem
The lack of resiliency in the healthcare supply chain was an eye opener for Radcliff, but he’s proud of AAH.
“All things considered, AAH did a great job,” Radcliff said. “We never had to go without, adhered to FDA and CDC guidelines around usage and protocols, and our supply chain never broke. It bent but we learned where the stress points were and how to get better. Our organization has invested in building capabilities where we saw weakness.
“For example, domestically produced PPE was a unicorn before the pandemic. But we’ve made investments to bring some PPE back to the U.S., including through our GPO, Premier, and along with other health systems, purchasing an equity position with Prestige Ameritech, a domestic N95 and PPE provider in Texas.”
4. Suppliers must add short-term and mid-term value when building back to normalcy
“Supplier engagement is critically important,” Radcliff explained. “Suppliers must be ready to have conversations with procurement teams or C-suite executives about adding value. Explain your successes or what you learned through failure. Help build diversification and resiliency. Help plan the return to normalcy.”
Radcliff expanded by saying suppliers must meet organizations where they’re at in the process. “Everyone is at a different level on the return to normalcy,” he said. “And a return to normalcy is a short-term process that must be met by organizations and suppliers. Also, suppliers must bring a six- to 12-month plan that adds mid-term value to the organization.
“How can suppliers help an organization’s optimization opportunities and economic efficiency opportunities? Those questions must be asked.
5. The digital transformation and rise of telehealth
Telehealth has had exponential growth during the pandemic. “It’s always been on our radar,” Radcliff said. “But significant shifts in business during the pandemic has forced its growth. At-home businesses are growing, and we must meet patients where their needs are.” He explained that AAH had seen over 500,000 telehealth visits in seven months of the pandemic in 2020.
“Supply chain is trying to get ahead of it,” he said, “and learning how to provide services at different venues of care. That’s where a lot of the transformation will happen. Supply chain has been thought of as a hospital type of shared service, but clinics were introduced five to seven years ago and we’re expanding capabilities in non-traditional venues.”
AAH is currently using Workday to standardize their technology footprint. “We need harmonization in tech as venues grow,” said Radcliff. “It’s a major investment in the next 12 to 18 months for us. It’s a massive digital transformation to build a more scalable and robust platform. We’ve made the investment in Workday to get it right the first time,” Radcliff said.
The Learning from Leaders Webinar Series features supply chain leaders from top IDNs and health systems across the country. It is available to ANAE members. Click here to join ANAE today!