Erik Walerius

Chief Supply Chain Officer, UW Medicine, Seattle, Washington

The Journal of Healthcare Contracting: What’s the most challenging or rewarding project you’ve worked on in the last 12 to 18 months?

Erik Walerius: Similar to most, if not all, of our healthcare supply chain colleagues, our organization’s response to the pandemic has been both the most challenging and rewarding project not just in the past 1-1.5 years but for my entire career. I am so humbled to be part of the team at UW Medicine that has risen to the occasion to ensure our clinicians and frontline staff have the supplies and equipment needed for patient care, but to also ensure they themselves are protected. We never ran out of any supplies during the pandemic and our staff were always protected. We have taken numerous lessons learned coming out of this pandemic that are helping shape our team’s priorities moving forward, including improved cross training of key roles, continued enhancement on our data/reporting, and improving cross team communication.     

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

Walerius: In addition to the lessons learned, our organization has embarked upon a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation we are conducting in partnership with our higher education university colleagues. We see this as an opportunity to not simply install new technology, but to validate, and if needed, redesign our processes across multiple key areas of our supply chain. We are also in a period of significant growth with two major infrastructure capital projects underway including a behavioral health hospital and a $1.7 billion patient care tower. Both projects will provide a much-needed foundation in continuing to achieve our mission to improve the health of the public.

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

Walerius: The continued elevation and recognition that a competent supply chain team is critical to ensuring clinicians have the tools and equipment needed to provide patient care. In addition, a skilled and capable supply chain team is a strategical advantage and differentiator to the organization’s future and financial health.

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

Walerius: Our leadership team consistently reminding our overall team and ourselves and then delivering on the commitment that no matter how difficult or complex or time consuming an objective at hand is, we are in this together as a team. Similarly, ensuring we all have aligned goals is another key priority. We have created a strategic plan for our department to ensure we are supporting the larger goals of our organization, which is helping us focus our efforts and minimize non-value-added work and therefore improving moral.

JHC: What one thing makes you most proud?

Walerius: I’m most proud of seeing our team continue to increase the value we provide to our organization. This includes the foundational work of consistently delivering supplies to the clinical floors and placing Purchase Orders to our work addressing total cost of care and quality outcomes. It’s inspirational to see how our team is evolving and maturing. Colleagues continue to recognize the value our partnership provides to the organization and how our contributions help our health system achieve its mission to improve the health of the public.