In early February, I sat down to talk with Bradley Adams, Supplier Access Specialist in the Supply Chain Organization of Intermountain Healthcare (IMH), to hear about his experience in supply chain management and his thoughts on vendor credentialing.
Q: Tell me about your journey in the healthcare ecosystem.
A: I worked 23 years in the supply chain at Disney. Their systems are extremely efficient, making me appreciate the importance of efficiency in process systems. After Disney, I moved into healthcare, working at a major medtech manufacturer in supplier management. I worked mostly with raw material suppliers and, again, found that efficiency and process improvement are paramount for the delivery of quality products to customers where and when they need it. Now I’m working in a hospital system, and the need for the most efficient systems are even more critical—I would argue much more critical—than in any supply chain system where I’ve worked. We’re dealing with people’s lives, and getting the best care to the patients as soon as possible is so essential to the health and well-being of patients.
Since being at IMH for the last 1 ½ years, I can tell you that the processes and regulations, and the concerns for safety and security are very similar no matter what type of system you are dealing with.
Q: What have you seen work over the years for cutting out waste and synching systems throughout hospital-supplier chain?
A: In my experience, it is essential to make regular process improvements and have interoperability protocols and standards to ensure the overall system learns and evolves. For instance, we created an SAP order system at the medtech company, and we rotated inventory. We also found alternate uses for products when they expired, such as diverting them to R&D or Design. I can’t emphasize enough that the important thing is attending to ways to improve processes.
Another thing we did at the medtech company was to reduce waste in shipping by using lighter containers and by tracking frequencies and consolidating shipments. Everything was tracked through devices and lot numbers and linked to an expiration date. We could track the device, knowing what institution we sold it to. If a system came back and said there was a problem, we knew; any adverse effects must be reported within 24 hours. If there was a recall, patient event, or a negative side effect, the company would know and could track it and notify the FDA and others throughout the supply chain.
In my role at IMH, we receive the goods from all sorts of vendors and must ensure that products on contracts are working. On the hospital side, I work much more with the people aspect of the healthcare ecosystem. What is so important is finding better ways regularly to save time and money and get what each patient needs. The system’s efficacy matters.
Q: What are the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
A: What I have found is that listening is critical to success. What does the customer, the patient, need, and how can we make it happen seamlessly? As patients, doctors, and vendors work together, the areas of mutual need overlap, and you can track where there are problems, delays, and unmet needs. Interoperable quality standards across the system are key, and without them, there are real-life consequences. As we deal with people’s health, there isn’t time to waste or room for error.
Going back to my days at Disney, we tracked, measured, and planned for demand. We could evaluate the demand for product at any given time; however, there isn’t a pent-up demand. In other words, there is a moment of opportunity, and you must be ready in real-time to meet the demand. Disney operates like a well-oiled machine. I can make an analogy of the need for a Disney-like system in healthcare vendor credentialing. Effective, efficient vendor credentialing means the right product is available for the right patient. The technology must ensure that standards (like the accredited ANSI NEMA standards) are adopted and systems are interoperable. Otherwise, there is waste, and the patient’s needs are not met in an optimal way. The pandemic highlighted how important it is to ensure that the system is more consistent across the country. The uptake by providers, suppliers, and VCOs of ANSI NEMA HCIR standards will ensure that we are constantly working to better meet patients’ needs.
Q: Why are interoperable standards important?
A: At the end of the day, we all have the same common goal—to help the patient, reduce the costs of healthcare, and maintain high quality care. Standards level the playing field. Everyone knows what’s expected, making it easier to provide a high level of care. In making vendor credentialing uniform, you won’t have excessive duplications or unnecessary costs. The system will run smoother. When everyone has the same expectation of what standards to meet, there is easier accessibility for the product to get to patients.
Q: What did COVID teach us?
A: Again, we saw the need for a coordinated, more efficient system—one that learns and builds in flexibility and adaptability. As you know, hospitals needed to provide the most stringently safe methods for vaccines so that the vulnerable are protected. Nonetheless, it’s hard when we were learning in real time. The data wasn’t there. Infection control is critical for a hospital system, so efficient interoperable standards across hospitals will be better for infection control and patient privacy. Thankfully, now the supply chain needs have caught up, and the fear has mostly gone away. But we learned that systems can be improved and must continue to be on an ongoing basis.
Q: What do you see as the way forward to ensure adoption of interoperable ANSI-NEMA standards?
A: From my perspective, communicating the importance of the ANSI/NEMA HCIR standards to all the various stakeholders in the healthcare system and showing how these accredited standards benefit all parties is essential. We need to build awareness and ensure adoption throughout the healthcare ecosystem.