MS, director, supply chain operations, Novant Health, Kannapolis, North Carolina
The Journal of Healthcare Contracting: Why do you believe non-acute, alternate site locations are vital to not only a health system or IDN, but U.S. healthcare in general?
Tyler Ross: Non-acute locations offer health systems the ability to reach patients where they are, in their own communities and on their own schedule. Our patients no longer have to travel long distances from potentially rural locations to receive care at a central (usually acute) facility; they are now able to tap into world-class healthcare from a trusted team of professionals in their own geographies. This is important not just as a tool to make care more accessible than ever, it also demonstrates a health system’s commitment to its communities and the health of its citizens.
JHC: What are some keys to success for supply chain teams that may be unique to non-acute?
Ross: Non-acute supply chain represents what I call a “high-volume, low-density” model that can feel contradictory to traditional lean, bulk-driven distribution systems. Clinics, individually, do not require as many items, or in as large quantities, as hospitals do, but as a group of clinics they still represent significant volume and spend. This requires outside-of-the-box thinking to build a distribution network that is both cost-effective and operationally-efficient, while still providing a high service-level to the individual clinic. We have been fortunate to have a medical group that stresses a “sum is greater than its parts” mentality, where each clinic is not treated as a small business but rather as a franchise of the whole. This allows us to promote system-based solutions and implement them at an individual-clinic level.
JHC: How was your department affected by COVID-19? What type of disruptions did you see? How were you able to navigate?
Ross: We were fortunate to have already established a strong relationship with our 600+ clinic medical group after our non-acute team was created in 2018. Going into the pandemic, we had already spent two years building foundational relationships with our physicians and clinic leaders, allowing us the ability to be trusted partners in navigating the supply chain challenges of COVID. During the pandemic, we’ve had to consistently shift between different products (especially PPE), different suppliers and at different price points, but our clinics trusted us to be communicative and proactive in helping them sustain their operations despite these shortages. Like every healthcare supply chain team across the country, we had to become extremely nimble and creative in our approach to providing sustainment during the pandemic, and our relationship with our medical group was key in allowing us to be successful.
JHC: Has the perception/integration by executive leadership of alternate sites within a health system or IDN changed in the last few years? If so, could you explain?
Ross: Before the recent “boom” of non-acute sites in healthcare, clinics were definitely considered peripheral entities, always coming in second place to hospital needs. Given the expansion of our non-acute footprint over the last few years, and the increased emphasis of adding clinics to our healthcare model, this perception has changed significantly. Clinics are now viewed as vital to our success as a health system, not just as a small subset. Our medical group operates over 600 clinics, as opposed to 15 acute care centers, and so the scope and breadth of influence from our non-acute sector has grown as well. Our medical group executive vice president is a member of Novant Health’s executive team, and as such our non-acute sector has significant influence over the direction our health system takes today, and will take in the future.
Certainly the fact that our leadership had created a non-acute team in 2018 is paramount to our success and indicative of forward-thinking on their part. I was just the fortunate one to be given leadership of the team operationally. Mark Welch (SVP, supply chain), Mike Bianchin (VP, logistics operations), my leaders who created our team, as well as Stephanie Phipps, who is on my team as our manager of non-acute supply chain, have been instrumental to our success. The Novant Health Medical Group (our clinic group) also accepted us with open arms in 2018, thus making relationship-building and strategy implementation fairly effortless and widely supported.
JHC: What project or initiative are you looking forward to implementing now or in the near future?
Ross: We have been extremely fortunate to be able to support the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, as our non-acute team has served as the lead department for establishing and operating vaccination centers. This work has been thoroughly rewarding, and my team and I are thrilled to be a small part of the project. We have helped establish over 50 vaccination sites since December 2020, and were able to integrate seamlessly in the workflow given our existing relationship with our medical group. I look forward to continuing this work and to support the expansion of vaccine availability and administration to the communities we serve.