Non-acute supply chain teams have a critical role in building efficiencies on the front lines of health care


December 2021 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting


Karla Butts

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a sudden and significant leap in responsibility for non-acute care (clinics, physician offices, long-term care facilities), as non-acute facilities found themselves on the front lines of the pandemic. Resiliency is key. Karla Butts, executive director, client executive team, The Resource, Engineering, and Hospitality Group, Providence Health, Renton, Washington, understands that to have a resilient supply chain, you need a team to support those processes. 

Butts recently joined The Journal of Healthcare Contracting podcast to discuss her role at Providence and how her team benefits the healthcare system overall. Providence Health consists of 52 hospitals across seven states and over 1,300 ambulatory locations. 

Five priorities of the client executive team

Butts’ team focuses on five priorities by partnering with regional executives, ministry executives, and business owners to strengthen the group’s relationships. Regarding her role at Providence, Butts said, “We’re recognizing that we are moving into the communities to deliver care right at the entry point. So that means expanding those clinic settings and specialty settings, urgent cares, express cares, rather than having our communities filter into an acute facility that might not be easy for them to access.”

Butts described the five priorities of her team, saying:

  1. “We focus on service performance and value of supply expense to budget the rhythm of business.”
  2. “We look at how we can eliminate uncontrolled variation and increase our compliance across our network.”
  3. “We have what’s called a relationship index. We measure how our relationships with our business partners in the ministries and campuses is based on our cadence and the information, and we measure our own performance on delivering on their requests.”
  4. “We work towards collaboration and transparency. We have what’s called a radar where we really outline what’s in the world of REH and how it might impact the individual business owners.”
  5. “We focus on month-to-month communications and helping with system rollouts of our new initiatives and programs.”

Benefits of a non-acute supply chain team 

The first step to having a successful non-acute supply chain team is to understand the business and the opportunities that are out there. “I think having this team in place has allowed us to know what our current state is, but also really drive strategy for how we expand our footprint. I think that it’s key to know that there are differences in how we expand our footprint, and how we manage supplies in a non-acute ambulatory setting versus acute.”

One of the important things to understand about the non-acute supply chain team is that there are nuances in contracting and agreements with specific vendors on the type of business model. “I think having a more focused lens in this clearly growing business line for all health systems, it’ll prove essential, not only for financial opportunities but also operationally,” Butts said. “We’re seeing that we have a real opportunity and a hand in building efficiencies on the front line.”

I think that it’s key to know that there are differences in how we expand our footprint, and how we manage supplies in a non-acute ambulatory setting versus acute