Publisher’s letter – Closer to Normal

John Pritchard

One year ago this week, my son graduated from high school. It was the weirdest event I’ve ever attended. We drove around the school as teachers lined the roads and waved, then went into the school 10 families at time – very social distanced – as he received his diploma. There were no parties last year. Yet last week, I went to a party for a graduate and it was as if the pandemic never happened. No masks, hugs, buffet line – it was unbelievable.

Personally, things seem closer to what life used to be like, but professionally it seems much more behind. I haven’t been on a plane for work in 15 months, nor have we had any clients visit. When I speak to Supply Chain leaders, many are still working remote but going into the office occasionally. Supplier representatives seem to be completely remote too, and very few are going into IDNs or hospitals. From what I can gather in these conversations, most IDNs will have a plan by the end of June as to what work setting expectations will be. I for one hope we are back together sooner rather than later.

In early June I look forward to attending the Federation of American Hospitals meeting in Nashville. This will be the first in-person industry event I’ve attended since the beginning of the pandemic. Ironically, the Federation meeting in 2020 was the last event I attended before the virus shut the world down. I look forward to seeing people in person again!

Recently I was chatting with a good friend of mine that’s a national accounts representative for a large medical supplier. He has the kind of job that used to keep him in hotel rooms over 100 nights per year. This Road Warrior lamented how bad his cabin fever has been and quipped “Heck, I’m so desperate to get out of the house, I’m willing to go on a business trip with my own money.”

I’m very curious what the interactions will look like in the future between Supply Chain leaders and Supplier representatives. Some questions I’d love to know are:

  • Will they meet in person as often as they used to?
  • Will it be harder for new vendors to be seen, heard and evaluated?
  • Will providers patronize and attend industry meetings and events?

In the coming years, it will be fascinating to learn the answers to these questions. In the meantime, enjoy this issue of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting.