Divisional director, supply chain, for Capital Health, Trenton, New Jersey
Editor’s Note: Steve Faup has responsibilities in both acute and non-acute supply chain for Capital Health.
The Journal of Healthcare Contracting: Can you talk about how the non-acute side of the healthcare supply chain was affected by COVID-19? What kind of disruptions did you see, and then how were you able to navigate that?
Steve Faup: We had the same problems other organizations did when it came to supply and availability. Sourcing alternative products was a large part of the focus. As a team, we vetted over 300 vendors that were new to our system, and most were new to healthcare supply. While the Medical Groups in person visits were reduced, excluding certain specialties, the need for the right product at the right time did not change. The biggest concern became the ability of hospitals and health systems that were not ready for telehealth, to become ready for telehealth in what felt like 15 minutes after the need arose.
JHC: Are you finding that supply chain is being invited into the conversations where care is going outside of the four walls of the hospital and into the community because of the disruptions?
Faup: The simple answer is yes. A few years ago, there were 15 or so alternate site practices operating as part of this healthcare system. It was a smaller model, and something the Health Care System Leadership was talking about and building. Now we have over 60 practices spread out through two states and multiple counties. They continue to grow including Laboratory and Emergency Services.
We feel very responsible to ensure that the healthcare system is supported, and can provide care for their patients. For us, our goal was to build a model to support the growth of our off site locations. For the non-acute and acute site services, we were working within a model focused on acute care service support. Prior to the pandemic, we began working to build a program dedicated to servicing the individual medical practices. During the pandemic, it was in everyone’s best interests that we finalize and implement a plan to move forward.
In October 2020, we successfully transitioned to the new model for service, including regular business reviews to monitor performance and opportunities to enhance value. We certainly do not want to lose sight of our role outside the walls of the hospital. Our Supply Chain Team understands that we do not want to solely look at resolving issues by continuing an existing process. We have learned to ask, “How do we want to deal with this tomorrow?” The growth for us is certainly continuing. The engagement with physician practices, the rollouts, whether it’s acquisitions or just building relationships, is a process that is now a step in our model. The Health Care System is very much focused on the communities we serve and providing a full scope of services for our clients. It is incumbent on us to ensure we are providing our practices with the supplies they need in order to continue to deliver quality patient care.
JHC: From the overall health system, C-suite leadership, has the perception of alternate site changed at all?
Faup: This is about a bigger picture. It spans multiple hospitals or health systems that I have worked for over the years. It’s changed at different points. When we were first asked to engage the alternate sites, I thought, “This is different, I would love to help you out. We will work it out. We will build formularies, delivery schedules, etc.” There are some basic things that we do, the way our brains work in this role is, “Well, if we put this here, put this there, and this is in place, that should help. And then if it does not work, we will modify it and make it work.”
I remember years ago while working at a different health system, the leadership told the Supply Chain, “Don’t worry about [alternate sites]. We’re not going to invest any resources with them.” Where I am today, the message is 180 degrees different. The Leadership is very engaged; they are supportive. They look at it and the opportunity that it provides to the communities that they support. They want to send a clear message about the importance that our role extends outside our doors. If there is a need in our community, they want to find a way to provide it. It is a great approach and one that makes you smile and know there are people caring about people.
JHC: What did you learn about yourself and your team in the last year with so many disruptions?
Faup: Thank God, I have a sense of humor. I tend to laugh first, and then we work it out from there. I have had the good fortune of working with people that are similar in their approach. It’s something that has come in handy over the last year.
Within the first few months of COVID-19, while still adapting to the current needs, (high demand, low supply, new avenues, and new vendors) we recognized the problem wasn’t going away in 30 or 60 days. Predicting and planning accurately when the demand model was fluctuating, was like opening an umbrella in a hurricane. Using a combination of data and “know how”, we began buying for the future while providing supplies and services for today. It was and still is a team effort.
I think that we’ve always looked at ourselves as problem solvers. Just give us a problem and we’ll figure it out. At any moment, you could look at what was going on and say, “This is so many problems wrapped into one. I’m not sure which one to address first.” We found a way, and we worked through it together. The team is there … leading a team of people that care is easy. When one person needed help, someone would quickly step in to support them. I think that ultimately, we thought we were indestructible. I also think that we came out of it saying this really was a big deal. We should be proud of ourselves and what we were able to do during an intense and stressful period.