This past week I had the pleasure of accompanying a coworker to the Michigan Association of Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (MAHRMM) Fall Conference at Michigan State University. I was there to represent OpenMarkets and educate myself about the supply chain processes within the healthcare field. As a senior at Michigan State majoring in Kinesiology, my education has been focused on clinical healthcare so the business side puts me a bit out of my element. 

Along the way, MAHRMM members and conference participants shed some light on the background of supply chain. The participants were from all ends of the spectrum: manufacturers such as Stryker and Medtronic, suppliers, hospital systems like Spectrum and Sparrow, as well as service providers and other third party participants. Over the course of the two days, various players in the industry spoke about their organization’s unique supply chain tactics and shared what works and what is lacking.  After day two, this is what I took away from the conference and speakers:

1)   Healthcare supply chain seems to be behind the ball:

Various supply chain officers presented on strategies to make the healthcare supply chain a more fluid process in years to come. Specifically, Trinity Health spoke about their efforts towards becoming a hospital system that self-distributes. The main topic of conversation was, “what could be used to simplify and improve the efficiency of the distribution process?” In their eyes, the traditional distribution operation can be seen as a poor “bill of materials” simply looking for a third party logistics partner. With so many touch points from a given manufacturer to Trinity Health’s hospitals, they are turning to a self-distribution-focused process. They are on track to make some crucial adjustments to this critical aspect of their supply chain operation, as are other members at the conference. With a common goal across all health systems, many are collaborating to find the best practices in the department of supply chain. To do so, conferences like MAHRMM are a great environment for healthcare businesses to share methods on advancing the future of supply chain across the board.

2)   Much of healthcare supply chain wants to be simplified:

A common thread of concern was rooted in the search for finding a better way to track inventory and connect manufacturers to hospitals more efficiently. Additional details, sometimes very specific, of areas of each system’s supply chain are in need of improvement. This immediately made me think of OpenMarkets as well as other third party companies that may smooth health systems’ supply chain, sourcing, distribution, etc. Much of what is said to be “broken” within supply chain processes may be fixed with already existing companies such as OpenMarkets (and others). It is important for the field of healthcare to become knowledgeable with all the companies out there that could make a beneficial impact on their business’ functionality. 

3)   The supply chain process of hospitals affects clinicians much more than you would think:

Being that I have an interest in the field of nursing, the topic of how nurses and doctors are directly influenced by supply chain sparked my attention. It was great to see supply chain leaders at hospital systems throughout Michigan discuss their work with their clinicians to obtain product shipments as well as ensure the sourcing of products. Trinity Health mentioned their desire for participation from clinicians in order to understand which products are clinically more beneficial. With their input, they have the ability to better decide, “what is the best price vs. what is the best value?” This is so valuable because doctors need to have a say in the decision of purchasing products, equipment and other goods that they will use. Physician engagement in the sourcing process leads to proper utilization, safety and quality of products within the hospitals. Quality of products then impacts the patients’ experience and thus leads to a successful hospital.

Before my experience at OpenMarkets and the MAHRMM conference, I never realized how much supply chain directly impacts the performance of hospital systems. Not only that, but there is so much that goes into getting clinical products from manufacturers to the nurses in hospitals. Difficulties arise because supply chain can never stop. Hospitals are constantly operating, so supply chain officers do not have the option of pausing to make changes; improvements must happen along the way. It’s as if a partially constructed airplane must go on as all the personnel on the plane continue to build it mid-air. Healthcare supply chain has this challenge: to continuously advance upon a never-ending operation. 

Barbara Baric is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in Kinesiology with plans to pursue Nursing post-grad, as well as a Product Directory intern for OpenMarkets.

Tom Derrick

Tom leads a range of core functions for OpenMarkets, including strategic partnerships and marketing. Prior to OpenMarkets, Tom served as a senior communications director for... More about Tom Derrick