Six Steps

Creating a clinically integrated supply chain is vital in enhancing performance and customer satisfaction.
By Nick Gaich, NCI Advisory Board member

Clinicians are committed professionals who challenge themselves and the science in their related fields to advance patient care. This focus often puts financial strain on provider organizations. An overriding goal for supply chain executives is to align this clinical focus on scientific advancements with organizational strategy to establish a balanced economic framework for effective decision-making. The means for achieving this goal is a clinically integrated supply chain.

A clinically integrated supply chain is essential to long-term financial success as it provides the framework for a recurring cost management program, and establishes a collaborative operating discipline for clinicians and hospital executives. The results of such efforts consistently yield clinical and economic improvements, along with higher levels of physician and patient satisfaction. Below are six steps to developing a clinically integrated supply chain.

No. 1: Identify
The first step is to identify the organization’s strategic clinical service lines. These service lines typically represent the areas of greatest clinical strength, and represent the greatest opportunity for both clinical care advancements and operational economic return.

No. 2: Evaluate
The next step is to evaluate the supply chain from the perspective of these areas. What products/services best serve your current and future clinical outcomes? How do your current supply chain initiatives support the organization’s clinical and financial strategic direction? What is the current state of contracting for these items? What are the expense management opportunities?

No. 3: Coordinate
An essential aspect of a clinically integrated supply chain is obtaining participant “buy-in.” While clinicians are the driving force behind service delivery and patient satisfaction, they are just one of several key participants. Their supply chain requirements must be aligned with organizational policies and coordinated through the supply chain division. Participant buy-in makes expectations transparent, permits a thorough evaluation, and enables true process ownership and genuine engagement.

No. 4: Develop
The goal here is to create a structured approach to supply chain decisions and contracting that strikes a balance between the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction and operational requirements for financial sustainability.

No. 5: Assess
A clinically driven approach is not an end in itself. It’s important to understand whether and how well the new plan is working; whether goals are being met. This requires ongoing monitoring that, in turn, requires the development of measurement tools to determine success in the area of clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and economic targets.

No. 6: Re-Design
Going back to the proverbial “drawing board” becomes necessary when/if the new approach is not delivering the expected results or the original parameters change.

Developing a clinically integrated supply chain is a strategic decision that leverages the organizational and clinical strength of the organization. The end result is greater clinician satisfaction, improved patient service and satisfaction and significant cost reductions.