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Getting proactive about the unpredictable

March 10, 2020
From the March 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Valerie Dimond

Product recalls, a sudden surge in flu and respiratory cases, new regulatory mandates and other issues make working in healthcare predictably unpredictable — and not just for those working on the front lines, but for a healthcare organization’s supply chain.

Adrian R. Bissette, senior supply chain engineer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and his team have faced those difficult challenges but are now able to deal with problems much more effectively after implementing standards that help them stay ahead of disruptions. In fact, they achieved a 48 percent decrease in back ordered items during flu season and an 83 percent reduction in manual reporting time through automation projects. Their program focuses on using data-driven reporting to improve inventory performance.

“The main challenge we faced was moving away from reactive positions to proactive ones; we needed to understand what was working and what wasn’t so we could begin to drive improvement rather than respond reactively,” said Bissette. “There was also the challenge of shifting ideologies from gut feel and not veering from historical process to questioning why processes are designed the way they are and asking how we can improve on what works.”

A big part of that problem was a lack of robust supply chain analytics. “We had tons of reporting, but we didn’t have much that pushed us forward. Structured reporting centered on detailed analysis is fundamental to effective supply chain management, and we had to build on that,” he said, noting that many healthcare supply chain professionals struggle to identify where exactly to start evaluating improvement opportunities and how to implement solutions. “This industry historically hasn’t used data for concepts like demand planning and forecasting,” Bissette said. “Analytics play a central role in supply chain optimization by aligning goals and expectations while simultaneously highlighting defects.”

Constructing a trusted methodology for clean item maintenance was critical. “Clean data is key to driving sustainable improvement and regular review is necessary to ensure data remains error-free,” he said. Defining operational leading practices is also important. “Execution must be aligned with stakeholders and defined processes where roles and responsibilities are well known,” Bissette asserted. “Leading practices must be consistent with processes but able to adapt when situations veer from the norm.”

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