Vice president, contract and program services, Pharmacy for Vizient, Inc.
Please tell us about a key mentor or event in your life.
Mittal Sutaria: It is really the support of various leaders over the years and events and experiences that have shaped me into who I am as a leader today. As a pharmacist I started my career in retail and hospital setting. During my previous role at a health system, in a single day I went from managing a small team for central pharmacy operations to managing the operations of the entire pharmacy as an interim director. I questioned my capabilities to lead in a position that required implementation and management of a large number of ongoing initiatives. It was the support and guidance of my direct manager at the time who believed in my abilities that helped me gain confidence to push forward regardless of any obstacles, and motivate and energize my team to undertake significant process changes to enhance the care delivery to the patients we served.
Similarly, I have been fortunate to have support and guidance of amazing leaders who also served as my mentors through the various positions I have held at Vizient over the past eight years. My experience of managing hospital pharmacy operations helped me relate to the challenges of our health-system members. Vizient has given me the opportunity to grow within the organization and continually challenge myself to seek innovative solutions and realize my passion for the work we do to support our members today.
Additionally, I have a very supportive team and peers that also understand the struggles of the health systems we support, and they are experts in the product categories they manage. Having an enthusiastic and driven team that I can rely on has propelled the solutions we have been able to bring to market.
Lastly, as a mother of three kids I’m always trying to manage the time that I can dedicate to my family while balancing work and travel. Especially when presented with an opportunity to expand my responsibilities as a sourcing leader and advance in my career, my family has provided unwavering support which laid the foundation for me to build up my confidence, be compassionate and continue to excel in my role while enjoying my work.
What did you learn about yourself and/or your supply chain team amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sutaria: Our industry has been dealing with drug shortages for over a decade now, and we have consistently advocated for transparency, redundancy and supply chain resiliency. Prior to the pandemic our team was already working on a solution to elevate supply chain resiliency specific to key essential pharmaceuticals that hospitals must have to care for any patient.
In November 2019, my team launched our Novaplus Enhanced Supply program, which brings new levels of transparency to the supply chain for essential medications and creates additional, onshore inventory based on committed historical purchase of our health-system members. Our timing for the program was fortuitous.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit in early March and we were already able to see the immediate positive impact of this program as our members were able to get much-needed additional supply of propofol, an essential medication that was utilized in management of patients with COVID-19 on a ventilator. Since March, we worked quickly and aggressively to expand this program to cover more essential medications and used our advanced data and analytics to provide insights to the suppliers for the current and future product demand, and created new partnerships to bring additional inventory to market. Our focus is supporting our members so they are better prepared for any future product surge related to the unknown elements of this pandemic, and our team rendered this initiative as their top priority for 2020 and 2021.
Overall, my team and I learned that although we are not involved in direct care of COVID-19 impacted patients, there was still so much work that needed to be done to support our member hospitals. I also learned that every individual on my team was looking for ways to do more to support our members. I was able to see how passionate they are about working to assure that we would be able to get additional product to a hospital that was experiencing a surge of COVID-19 patients, which increased demand that far exceeded their historical purchases and allocation level.
Since March, the entire sourcing team has adjusted to a remote work environment while managing their sourcing portfolio and undertaking a very challenging task of assuring supply resiliency for essential medications. I learned that as a team we had to be collaborative, effectively communicate, and allow for the exchange of ideas and solutions for us to respond to the supply chain challenges. We were able to leverage the individual talent of each team member to educate our members about the Novaplus Enhanced Supply program, develop a new contracting process to support expansion of this program, and collaborate with our supplier partners to in making this program successful.
Another key learning coming from the pandemic is that, as Vizient, we are able to amplify the voice of our network of members for advocacy related to drug shortages, price increases, transparency and supply resiliency. And this scale also enables creation of additional product inventory that bolsters supply resiliency, not only for our members, but for the industry as whole.
What are key characteristics that a supply chain leader of the future will need to be successful?
Sutaria: Future supply chain leaders need to embrace data-driven solutions that challenge the status quo and promote a strong, resilient and transparent supply chain that can withstand unpredicted disruptions from raw material sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution. Supply chain for pharmaceuticals is changing rapidly and unpredictably; therefore supply chain leaders will need to support and drive innovation through predictive analytics to see ahead and identify product specific demand and sourcing risks.
I believe that flexibility will be a key leadership trait of a future supply chain leader. While assuring savings and market leading pricing is certainly still a priority, the future supply chain leader needs to be able embrace innovative solutions that focus beyond price to assure product access and reliability. To be successful in the future, I believe that as supply chain leaders we must also listen actively to the needs of our customers and be compassionate and empathetic to their daily challenges related to product sourcing. We must also work with our supplier partners to create data-driven solutions that provide a competitive pricing model and supply assurance that delivers value to all parties, including pat