Publisher’s Letter – Weathering the Storm

John Pritchard

It was a little over a year ago the world as we knew it stopped. I thought I would share some observations of what we’ve gone through, and where we’re headed.

John Pritchard

The old saying “every process operates exactly as it was designed” proved true again. As usage of PPE escalated and safety stock demand was added to this usage, our Just-in-Time system of supply accordioned like a snowy car wreck on the turnpike. There was carnage everywhere.

So many harrowing stories have been shared over the last year of how Supply Chain departments answered the call by searching the globe for PPE, making it themselves or even re-purposing equipment made for other applications. The necessity to keep workers and patients safe certainly made for some innovative solutions.

From what I hear all the big IDNs are holding more inventory than ever, and making arrangements to buy and stock even more. It seems like the big IDNs are putting the onus on themselves to ensure supply continuity is not compromised going forward. Whether that’s by adding warehouse space, moving into self-distributing or committed buys of PPE and supplies, IDNs are not shy about buying and holding stock. Such a big difference from just over a year ago.

Systems have also become quite adept at evaluating and on-boarding new suppliers. This is one of the biggest changes I’ve seen as a result of the pandemic. Prior to COVID, breaking into an IDN for a new supplier was a pretty difficult and often painstaking process. Now it can happen almost instantaneously.

In the first couple of months, I was really worried for Supply Chain Leaders. It was as if everything we knew to be true didn’t work anymore. I can just imagine these good people being beckoned to the C-suite and being asked by an angry CEO: “How did we run out of masks and gloves?” There were times I thought we may see many departments under new leadership. But these leaders prevailed and led their departments and systems through the troubled times.

Communication has really been embraced by IDN Supply Chain Leaders to weather this storm. Communication internally, externally, with peers, suppliers, clinicians, communities and with media. This is good news for all of us – strength in numbers, my friends.

A few months ago when supply sort of normalized, the conversation switched from stuff to staff. I hope our front-line workers are feeling better and getting back to some semblance of normal. I really hope we see Supply Chain departments get the resources and know-how they need to develop the best and brightest people they can. From this pandemic I hope we see a renewed and  sustained focus on talent developed for our craft.

As always, please reach out to me if you’d like to share your thoughts. Thanks for reading this issue of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting.