Understanding the Differences

Why one supply chain leader believes knowledge of the unique needs and workflows in the non-acute space is a tremendous help in navigating supply chain disruptions.

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Mona Clark, AVP, Ambulatory Quality, Lifepoint Health, is a nurse by trade with 25 years of experience who has practiced in both the acute and non-acute settings. Her role at Lifepoint is focused on leading strategic initiatives and quality for the organization’s Physician Services team. Prior to March 2020, the primary focus of her position was on quality as it relates to value-based contracts, and her supply chain involvement was related to point of care testing in our practices.

However, when the pandemic hit, it was quickly identified that Lifepoint needed someone to lead its practices through all the supply chain issues they were experiencing at that time.

“The task was handed to me, and it was my first in-depth experience with supply chain management,” Clark said. “Although the supply chain aspect of my role has transitioned out of crisis mode today, it has evolved into a more stable focus on compliance, standardization and optimization, and I have continued taking on the responsibility ever since.”

In the following interview, Clark discusses the benefits of having a dedicated non-acute supply chain team, planning for the unpredictable, and increasing diversity spend.

Why do you feel it is important for health systems to have a dedicated team that focuses on non-acute space?

There are significant differences between acute and non-acute spaces, and having someone dedicated to non-acute that understands the unique needs and workflows is a tremendous help in navigating supply chain disruptions.

On-site laboratory testing is a prime example of one of these specialized areas and is important in providing the best care to our patients. There are many unique challenges within non-acute settings that are not experienced in the acute space such as multiple locations and specialties being geographically spread out, as well as limited storage space within the practices.  

How do you prepare and plan for the unpredictable? 

The best way to prepare for the unpredictable is to partner with your distributor and leverage their insight into what they are hearing; conduct your own research into shortages and disruptions; and prepare to pivot quickly when needed. We have gained a significant amount of knowledge based on our experiences through the pandemic and need to take those lessons learned and apply them to everyday processes to be better prepared for uncertainties in the future.  

Are you stockpiling through a private warehouse or distribution partner? Is this a priority?

We have stockpiled in the past and continue to monitor the situation. Throughout the pandemic, we relied on a centralized warehouse as we worked to keep our physician practices stocked with the needed supplies to keep both our staff and our patients healthy and safe. The warehouse is becoming less crucial than it once was at the height of the pandemic, but we are still utilizing it to purchase in bulk when we see possible shortages on the horizon to ensure our practices have what they need when they need it.

Is the risk of (expired product) worth taking? 

You must have the resources to properly manage the stockpiled product as it relates to the expiration dates and clinic needs. We have worked closely with our distributor, vendor partners and the warehouse team to limit waste and utilize inventory prior to shelf-life expiration.

What actions are being taken with your health system as well as at site level to drive vendor diversity spend? How are you partnering with your supplier partners on DEI spend?

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is very important to Lifepoint. We are not only looking at expanding our vendor diversity spend, but we are also looking at the products available to make sure we are including options that are inclusive, such as bandages that come in multiple colors to match different skin tones. We are currently going through a formulary review, and during that time, each product is evaluated on several categories including diversification classification. 

We feel it is very important to increase our diversity spend and are actively working to do so as we navigate the frequent supply chain issues. Since we are currently conducting a formulary review, it is easier to do both simultaneously. 

Is there any advice you would give someone who may be starting a role like yours in a health system that may have not had this role previously?

I highly recommend developing a strong partnership with your distributor and a close working relationship. Ask questions of those around you who have been in supply chain and rely on their wisdom until you learn the language and feel like you can start navigating it on your own.

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