The Strategic Marketplace Initiative (SMI) is a nonprofit member-driven consortium of healthcare industry thought leaders who work to improve the healthcare supply chain and marketplace in the U.S. SMI offers a non-commercial community in which healthcare providers, suppliers, distributors, and disruptors can network and collaborate on innovations that drive improvements in supply chain agility, efficiency and resilience. Initiative teams work to create tools that help industry leaders predict trends, assess needs, address challenges and incorporate best practices. These tools are offered to the industry free of charge.
C4UHC and SMI have much in common. Both organizations serve the healthcare industry and share similar goals related to standardizing processes, methods and requirements. They both bring together providers, suppliers and other healthcare thought leaders in a non-commercial context to achieve improvements that will benefit the industry and its patients.
After recently attending an SMI Forum, I recognized that our two organizations can support each other. I invited Jane Pleasants, executive director of SMI, to be my first blog guest.
Before her current role, Jane was the Vice President of Supply Chain for Duke University and Duke University Health System, where she had responsibilities for end-to-end supply chain management including all materials and logistic functions of the Health System. Jane also provided procurement and sourcing leadership for the academic and medical center campuses at Duke University. Beginning at a small rural hospital in North Georgia, Jane’s supply chain career advanced to leading supply chains at three academic medical centers; Vanderbilt University, University of Rochester, and Duke University.
Here are some highlights from our recent conversation.
SG: You have a wealth of experience in healthcare supply chain. Can you share some lessons learned during your career?
JP: Much of what I have learned about supply chain management occurred during my time at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Two big lessons come to mind. The first is, if you do the small things well for your customers, and do them consistently, the customers will be there for you when the big things come up. Little wins help create collective buy-in for bigger changes.
The second lesson is that people support what they help to create. At Vanderbilt, we needed to streamline and standardize our purchasing practices, and I discovered that this was tricky in an academic environment. Service lines weren’t integrated, and there were many opinions about what should be available.
SG: How did you do it?
JP: We created teams from all service lines to bring the diverse stakeholders together. Then we began with the highest cost items that were most important to each stakeholder group and brought the teams to consensus on which vendors should get our business. The process took about three years to complete.
SG: Tell me about the progress SMI has made in making the healthcare supply chain more efficient.
JP: At SMI the work is about creating tools for everyone to access, and about collaborating, communicating and coordinating throughout the healthcare ecosystem to achieve greater efficiencies. To date, we have created methodologies, publications, guidelines, and software tools on a variety of topics to help all healthcare supply chain practitioners make progress and promote improvements. It has been gratifying to witness the long-term professional relationships built among initiative team members and the improved communication and support for positive change that has resulted. SMI also coined the widely used supply chain term “perfect order” to describe the condition in which an item’s price, quantity, contract, SKU and inventory are all correct and in order. This term is now synonymous with efficiency in a system.
SG: In your opinion, where are changes needed in regard to national standardization of processes in healthcare?
JP: First of all, it’s worth noting that national standards have in many cases been driven by regulatory requirements. Your own organization came about because of a Joint Commission requirement, for example. JC issued a requirement for contractors and vendors entering a healthcare facility to meet the same standards as healthcare employees. Suppliers worked with the freelance credentialing organizations that had evolved to take the burden off the providers for meeting these complex and varying requirements. However, the requirements were different in different states and in different hospitals, which created added financial and paperwork burdens for suppliers whose employees work in multiple regions, and it created issues for providers. The need for standardization was clear, and this led to C4UHC.
As you can tell, vendor credentialing is an area I think could be much improved with nationwide standardization. Another big objective we must address, in my opinion, is getting unique device identification (UDI) adopted throughout the U.S. supply chain. Achieving these two objectives would benefit healthcare in multiple ways.
SG: Where would you begin the process of standardizing the credentialing system for supplier professionals who work in hospitals?
JP: I would begin by standardizing the forms that employees must sign. This would include assessing vendor employee forms and provider forms, which both need to be harmonized.
SG: Can healthcare leaders and organizations such as ours work together to achieve beneficial standardization?
JP: Yes! As hospitals are consolidating and acquiring private community practices, standardizing the supply chain with supportive resources is becoming more critical than ever. I believe that SMI, C4UHC and groups like the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and the Association of Healthcare Value Analysis Professionals (AHVAP) could partner to help get national standards like the ANSI/NEMA SC 1-2020 American National Standard for Supplier Credentialing in Healthcare adopted. I truly believe that the way to drive change is to build strong industry relationships that are based on respect, collaboration and teamwork.
I am inspired by Jane’s successes and her enthusiasm for driving positive change. I agree with her that there’s great potential in working with other influential healthcare leaders and organizations to help standardization go national, and I look forward to working with SMI as we move forward.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Have you been able to achieve standardization in your organizations? If so, how did you do it?