About Northwestern Memorial HealthCare
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare is the corporate parent for the Northwestern Medicine health system, whose medical staff of more than 4,000 includes more than 1,000 residents and fellows and over 1,500 employed physicians who are part of the Northwestern Medical Group, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, Kishwaukee Medical Group or Marianjoy Medical Group. The health system serves patients at over 100 diagnostic and ambulatory sites across the greater Chicago market, including seven hospitals.
Vice President, Procurement Services, Supply Chain Management
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare
Since joining Northwestern Memorial HealthCare more than 15 years ago, Jennifer McPherren’s role has encompassed support services operations, outsourced contract labor management and corporate supply chain. As vice president of procurement services, she has oversight of the $2B procurement arm of Northwestern Medicine’s supply chain, including strategic sourcing, value analysis, performance analytics, contract management, medical capital procurement and clinical engineering. McPherren was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and raised in Yreka, California.
Journal of Healthcare Contracting: Can you describe the most challenging and/or rewarding supply-chain-related project in which you have been involved in the past 12-18 months?
Jennifer McPherren: Northwestern Medicine (NM) is on a growth trajectory, rapidly expanding the number of hospital affiliates in our healthcare system. A natural byproduct of such mergers is the change management activity tied to assessing legacy structures. NM’s supply chain mission is to advance a comprehensive clinical and business integration procurement platform that balances academic medical center needs yet promotes decision-making inclusive of all affiliate entities. For the past year our supply chain team has been on a journey to completely overhaul the way our diverse constituents consider and select products for patients. We’ve launched a collaborative program designed by physicians for physicians, which empowers clinicians to make decisions on behalf of their peers across all 10 affiliates in a relativity rapid fashion.
While all the correlating metrics of the new program are promising (product standardization up 200 percent, new products approved down 30 percent, decision participants consolidated by 85 percent), the most rewarding change has been the evolution in partnership between the clinicians and the supply chain team.
JHC: Please describe a project you look forward to working on in the next 12 months.
McPherren: NM is in the early stages of deploying a new medical equipment management program. In collaboration with our CFOs, supply chain has been charged with executing a five-year capital procurement strategy that takes advantage of economies-of-scale pricing, deploys modality standardization, transitions to a “right-size service selection” platform, and consolidates clinical engineering across the NM continuum. With over 60,000 assets spread across 150 locations featuring 142 different modalities from over 200 distinct suppliers, supply chain is excited to partner with our clinicians on this capital management asset opportunity. A central repository housing NM’s fleet information will afford our clinicians proactive visibility across multiple sites. It will inform deployment decisions as to when and where we should be investing our limited funds to carry out our organization’s mission.
JHC: How have you improved the way you approach your profession in the last five to 10 years? Did you have any help doing so, or was there any particular incident that was particularly significant?
McPherren: Healthcare supply chain management is an emerging profession. It has progressed from a back-office support function to an integral component of the healthcare continuum. As managers of the second largest expense category following human capital, supply chain executives who can swiftly effect change will continue to be a strategic force in improving the delivery of cost-effective care. NM’s supply chain approach to managing to the ever-changing needs of the business is to hire and retain exceptional talent. The foundation of our program is built on sourcing clinicians versed in products, engineering analysts skilled at uncovering compelling business cases through data, attorney negotiators trained in advocacy, and a management team that can compel decision-making.
JHC: In your opinion, what will be some of the challenges or opportunities facing the next generation of supply chain professionals? What should they be doing now to prepare to successfully meet those challenges and opportunities?
McPherren: Technical skills such as artificial intelligence, data mining, dynamic programming and lean principles will be in high demand. The next generation will likely have the luxury of seamless purchase and charge data integration, predictive preference card management and instant product utilization change alerts. However, from my perspective, we’ll always be in the change management business. Likable professionals who can influence laterally, persuade a broad range of constituents and drive consensus quickly will always be in high demand.