About Ochsner Health System
With 30 hospitals owned, managed and affiliated, more than 80 health centers and urgent care centers, more than 18,000 employees, and over 1,200 physicians in more than 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, Ochsner is Louisiana’s largest health system. Each year, more than 273 medical residents and fellows work in 27 different Ochsner-sponsored ACGME accredited residency training programs. Ochsner also hosts more than 550 medical students, 150 advanced practice providers, 1,200 nursing students and 575 allied health students.
Vice president, Vendor Management and Purchased Services
Ochsner Health System
New Orleans, Louisiana
Born in Hawaii, Mark French moved to Northern California with his family when he was 15. He received a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of California Davis. While there, he worked in a trauma unit, a physical therapy clinic and an Alzheimer’s care facility (for which he ultimately assumed an administrator role). He received a master’s degree in health administration from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. After completing a fellowship and an additional year working in finance at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, he returned to New Orleans and joined the Ochsner Health System in 2000. He began his career at Ochsner as the operations manager in the Department of Renal Services and has served in a variety of leadership roles, including the COO of Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans.
French lives in New Orleans. He is the father of three daughters, ages 15, 13 and 10.
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?
Mark French: There have been two, one being the replacement of our elevator service and maintenance provider, and the second being the replacement of our courier provider.
We have approximately 160 cars or elevators throughout our organization. You learn very quickly that they can be the lifeline of any facility. When they are not operating correctly, it’s an extremely challenging situation. We put our vendor on a performance improvement plan, but ultimately had to sever ties. Transitioning to a new service provider is never easy, but we are in a good place now. Service has improved tremendously, and confidence is slowly being restored.
We had a similar situation with our courier provider. We brought in a new provider in January, but quickly found they were not up to the task. When something like this happens, it’s a matter of looking at yourself in the mirror, realizing that you’ve made a mistake, taking ownership of that, reassuring the organization that you’ll fix it, and then getting it right – not to mention all the day-to-day firefighting and troubleshooting. We did bring in another provider, and things are now working smoothly.
Dealing with purchased services is challenging. You’re dealing with human beings, not widgets. The organization can have wonderful policies and operating protocols in place for each service, but each service provider must execute – and that often comes down to the individuals who are responsible for the delivery of the associated service. It’s never-ending work. Just when you think everything is progressing smoothly, there will be a new challenge to address. You’re excited one moment, and the next you’re asking, “Why isn’t this working?”
JHC: Please describe a project you look forward to working on in the next year.
French: We’re living in a world of disruption. A great example is the merger of Aetna and CVS. That could change the healthcare landscape. Given the new entity’s financial resources, the collective knowledge and understanding of customer service, and the fact that neither is embedded in the industry as a traditional healthcare provider, it could become a new competitive force that will challenge traditional approaches and paradigms. With disruptions such as these, our challenge to remain current and immediately relevant to our community and patients is real.
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?
French: You’re talking to a much humbler person than I was five or 10 years ago. I realize today there’s so much I don’t know. I learned as a COO that being able to manage stress and maintain a healthy work/life balance is a real thing. The challenge is in realizing you may not be able to handle all on your plate the way you traditionally might have. You must prioritize, put life in perspective and understand what’s important.
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?
French: They will require the willingness to change on a dime; the willingness to fail and not hang onto something too long; and the ability – and I believe this is an ability – to work effectively with other people. This is a team sport. If you can’t work within a team construct, or if you don’t believe that every member of the team is valuable, you’re going to struggle. Also, you can’t hang onto something just because you invented it. The environment is constantly changing; if we can’t change, then in all likelihood we can’t be successful. I think humility is another factor for success. It’s a willingness to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”
We have a fellowship program within Ochsner; I am a preceptor of a supply chain professional. My constant mantra is, “Be humble, work well with others, be ready and willing to change, and find work/life balance.” Hopefully you run across mentors who will challenge you and call you out when you’re not being humble.