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In a new Healthcare Supply Chain Radio podcast, supply chain veteran John Strong, participated in a Q&A with John Pritchard, podcast host and publisher of the Journal of Healthcare Contracting and ACO Insights.

During the episode, Strong revealed how healthcare supply chain became his life’s work. Strong said he fell into supply chain by accident as a high schooler. A friend’s father was the administrator at the local hospital, and Strong was offered a job as the printer at the hospital, producing promotional materials and other forms. He worked for the hospital throughout college in various departments, and then after school was hired on full-time as a purchasing agent.

“From there, I expanded and grew within the scope of healthcare supply chain,” he said.  

Specifically, Strong went on to serve as President and Chief Executive of Consorta, a leading Group Purchasing Organization (GPO). Under John’s guidance, Consorta merged with the Healthtrust Purchasing Group. Overall, he has amassed 20 years of healthcare experience, and has consulted on critical aspects of GPOs, such as business launch, strategy development, operations, new business opportunities, and member satisfaction.  

GPOs are evolving, Strong said, and specifically, GPOs have more access to big data than they did five or 10 years ago. Regional coalitions and GPOs, which he said are big enough to matter but nimble enough to commit, will continue to grow. Also, consolidation has allowed integrated delivery networks (IDNs) to now wholly own GPOs, which Strong said has been a surprise and not something he could have imagined a decade ago. As consolidation continues, Strong said to watch how many decide to form buying organizations, whether as a true GPO or to do more contracting on their own.

Strong and Pritchard also touched on renewed interest in collaboration between healthcare providers and suppliers. In his research, Strong has found that healthcare has been slow to collaborate, and that in heavy industry or automakers, they work with suppliers to drive down cost. “Historically, we do very little, or almost none of that in healthcare,” said Strong.

But that is changing.

Strong is encouraged that collaboration between providers and suppliers is improving, and noted that healthcare systems are recognizing the value of collaborating with suppliers as means of driving cost out of the supply chain.  

In addition to the new emphasis on collaboration between providers and suppliers, Strong discussed the importance of “green health.” Environmentally friendly materials used to build health centers are becoming more popular and as the importance of outcomes-based healthcare intensifies, it clearly does not make sense to treat a patient for asthma in a building made of materials that will trigger asthma symptoms.

Strong is involved in Greenhealth Management, the company that manages Greenhealth Exchange. The Exchange is a public benefits corporation that vets products for favorable environmental characteristics, and is working with another company that allows for displaying those characteristics for comparison. And generating community benefit reports that show benefits of going from brown to green products. The organization launched in May 2016, and there’s been a great deal of interest from healthcare systems interested in sustainability initiatives.    

Strong is also a believer in supply chain education, and said more students than ever are interested in the topic. He served as Adjunct Lecturer, Supply Chain Management, at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee from June 2012 to May 2015, and said at the beginning of every semester, he would ask his students how many of them were interested in healthcare supply chain. Out of an entire class, one or two students might raise their hands, he said. But now, UW-Milwaukee’s program has grown from 85 students to over 500 students since he started teaching.

Strong currently serves on the advisory board of OpenMarkets and has helped steer the organization during the planning of its new product, “The Exchange,” a comprehensive capital platform that includes a rich product directory populated in real time, instant and direct communication modules, robust analytics and reporting data, and an interface to aggregate purchases and participate in group buys.

Click here to listen to the podcast. 

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