Anna Ormiston

Head of GPO & Operations, Conductiv

The Journal of Healthcare Contracting: What did you learn about yourself and your team over the last year?

Anna Ormiston: The most challenging project over the past year would absolutely have to be starting a new group purchasing organization (GPO) – Conductiv Contracts – from the ground up. We’re a secondary GPO, providing value independent of our members’ existing group purchasing relationships, and we’re the only one focused solely on third-party services.

Starting from scratch to bring in members and build out the contract portfolio is very challenging, but it’s also rewarding. When you start fresh, you have the ability to rethink past approaches as well as add efficiencies and innovation, such as locally-initiated contracts, or parallels with diversity and inclusion efforts. These are the type of opportunities one may not have when working with an established offering.

When I’m talking to prospective members or suppliers and they see how our offerings help solve a problem they’ve been dealing with for so long, it’s truly gratifying. We’re helping our members contract for services at scale, while meeting the unique needs of each facility. We believe that through agile and purposeful sourcing activity, our members can improve the communities and missions they serve.

JHC: What project or initiative are you looking forward to working on?  

Ormiston: We’re really excited to expand our analytics offering into the GPO. Our members have so much on their plates, technology that helps them more seamlessly gain operational efficiencies and cost savings can be a total game changer.

Our technology utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve spend transparency, illuminate savings opportunities and optimize purchased services outcomes while tracking successes along the way. Members can see when they have an upcoming contract expiring, and we’re able to directly connect them with our contracted partners. For years, one common point of feedback from suppliers has been how difficult it can be to get in front of a member at the right time. This really helps solve that issue.

JHC: What changes brought about by the pandemic are here to stay with respect to the supply chain?  

Ormiston: COVID-19 has highlighted and put into sharp focus the need for centralized, accurate data.

Gone are the days when you could just run down the hall to ask someone about a contract or a supplier’s performance. With everyone suddenly working remote, it became apparent just how many challenges are added into everyday work by this lack of centralization.

We have the opportunity to build interconnected digital supply networks that can anticipate and respond to future shocks and minimize their impact, as well as automate manual processes. This kind of comprehensive, technology-enabled supply chain can help organizations across sectors achieve superior savings, drive transparency and build resiliency for the future. 

JHC: How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?

Ormiston: Building a new GPO and doing it all remotely provides a unique set of challenges. And our company has grown significantly over the past year, which has led to people joining the team who we’ve never met in person. 

I think the first thing that’s critical to motivation is allowing a space where they can openly discuss the challenges they’re facing. I have at least 30 minutes carved aside weekly with each team member to cover 3 things: 1) What’s going well; 2) What are the challenges and obstacles; and 3) How can I help?

From my own personal experience, Conductiv leadership listens and acknowledges the obstacles I’m facing, which is what I do with my team as well. By engaging my team in this dialogue regularly and working alongside them to help problem solve, it shows that we’re partners in helping them remove conflict or obstacles so that we can allow them to excel and grow.

JHC: What are the most important attributes of successful leaders today?

Ormiston: I love the phrase, “hire the best talent and get out of their way.” In my view, there are so many ways to accomplish any goal, and I’ve had a lot of success by stepping back and empowering the team to discover the process that works best for them. It makes me a better leader to see different viewpoints and hear their experiences at other companies.

I think it’s also important to allow each team member to make their own mistakes in a safe environment. Not every idea is going to work out – and that’s OK. Successful leaders are ones who understand that you learn something new each time a plan doesn’t develop in the way you’d envisioned, and there’s a lot of value in that.

JHC: What’s the most important risk you took and why?

Ormiston: Many years ago, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to consider two different job opportunities. One was in an established, successful program that focused on consumables and equipment. The other was to help start and create a new space focused on purchased, third-party services. 

No one was really talking about purchased services at this time, so it was difficult to know if focusing in this area was going to lead to a dead end. I weighed a lot of pros and cons, but in the end, I decided to take the risk and join the team focused on services. I could never have predicted that one decision would lead me to this amazing career. Purchased services is now an area on the top of everyone’s list to tackle, and I was able to gain years of experience and insight by making this my focus back then. 

JHC: How do you generate great ideas in your organization?

Ormiston: One of my favorite things about working at Conductiv is the receptiveness to new ideas. It doesn’t matter what your job function is – if you have a good idea, we want to hear it. 

Not long ago, we had a great roundtable discussion and the topic was: “If money was no object, what would you do/create to add more value to our members?” People can be hesitant to throw ideas out there because they immediately start thinking about barriers to success, and what we wanted to highlight with that conversation was – if it’s a good idea, let’s remove the barriers. It was amazing to hear the thoughts and ideas from the group once we removed the concept of constraint, many of which were ultimately added to our product roadmap.

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