How to manage a clinically integrated supply chain: 5 takeaways for ASC leaders

Supply chain management will continue to play an even more critical role for ASCs in the coming months. By embracing a clinically integrated supply chain, ASCs can work with their distributors to reduce costs while providing high-quality patient care.

During a September webinar hosted by Becker's ASC Review and sponsored by Cardinal Health, Penny Williams, senior consultant of clinical operations of Cardinal Health, and Caitlin Duggan, regional director of ASCs for Cardinal Health, discussed how ASCs can implement clinically integrated supply chains and the resulting benefits.

Five takeaways: 

  • Regular, ongoing communications is critical to successful implementation. Many ASCs are relying on texting and communication boards to keep staff informed. Nurses can make a significant contribution by ensuring surgeons' preference cards are complete and updated as products change. 

  • Educating clinicians and soliciting their input eases adoption and change. Clinicians need to understand how the supply chain disruptions over the past 18 months have impacted the items they need and prefer. "We need to be transparent with our staff regarding substitutes and encourage them to be open-minded about the adoption of different products and their standardization," Ms. Williams said. One way to do this is to involve as many of the staff as possible in trials and evaluations of new products.
    "When clinicians are involved in the procurement process, it increases the quality of patient care. It also decreases cost by offering like products on an even playing field."

  • Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions have been significant and will continue. According to the Institute for Supply Management, 75 percent of companies were experiencing some sort of supply chain disruption due to the pandemic earlier this year, and 44 percent did not have a plan in place to deal with it. The Suez Canal blockage and worker shortages have exacerbated the problem — and healthcare supplies will continue to be affected.

  • ASCs and distributors' reps must build mutually beneficial, long-term partnerships. "One of the most valuable resources that ASCs have is their rep," Ms. Duggan said. "A rep who is highly communicative and responsive can change an ASC's relationship with the entire company." Although distributor reps are frequently seen as salespeople, they also provide responsive, organized and resourceful service.

    In addition, it's their role to provide the data and analytics that ASCs need to communicate progress internally and help define objectives, strategies and goals. "When you're both in lock step from what you expect from each other, that's what really builds a strong partnership," Ms. Duggan added.

  • A clinically integrated supply chain means higher quality, less waste, reduced cost and fewer silos, leading to better patient outcomes. "When we create silos, we lack a meaningful connection and exchange of information with other departments," Ms. Williams said. By improving communication and integration through the supply chain, the organization can work together to determine the best products that deliver the best care at the best price. "In the end, this contributes to increased patient satisfaction while lowering costs," she added. "The standardization of specific products and vendors often results in better contract pricing and clinical process standardization, which can lead to fewer errors and improved overall efficiency."

Although managing a clinically integrated supply chain within an ASC is complex, a supply chain assessment with Cardinal Health can help. The assessment helps you identify opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce waste within your supply chain, optimizing performance and finding real savings. Request a no-cost to you supply chain assessment here.

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