What’s Keeping You Up at Night? 10 Things Plaguing Hospital Supply Chain Leaders


By Cheryl Flury

Talking to hospital supply chain leaders every day, we hear a lot about what stands between them and good night’s sleep.  Several recurring themes include managing “revolutionary” change, keeping up with organizational growth (frequently without additional resources), and often, disconnected expectations of what a “great” supply chain could look like.  

So what's on the worry list?  Here are the 10 things we hear from supply chain leaders:

1)  We’re the one department expected to reduce costs – sometimes it seems like we’re reducing costs for the whole system, while at the same time, we’re asked to deliver more services. 
2)  Five years ago we implemented an ERP system and we’re still on the same version. Upgrades take too long and cost too much. How can we tap into new technology without spending a lot of money on new hardware or version upgrades?
3)  We have data being created by and stored in a dozen systems. We need ways to tap into data that spans our entire organization…and then, ways to make sense of it.
4)  I’m not sure people understand the role of supply chain – how can we be more aligned with our organization’s strategy?
5)  Supply chain is asked to do more and more, but our staff size hasn’t increased.  I need ideas for removing burdensome work from my team, so they can focus on the most important initiatives!
6)  We’ve been acquiring new hospitals and we continue to grow. That’s great, but it’s caused even more gaps among disparate systems and multiple ERPs that really don’t talk to each other.
7)  Our nurses aren’t happy with supply chain. They’re working hard to deliver efficient patient care and every time they can’t find an item they need, the rift gets a little worse.
8)  We’re adding more kinds of facilities to our systems, such as stand-alone ERs and surgery centers. We need our processes and systems to be more connected, so we can “see” our supply chain all the way to the places where care is delivered.
9)  We need more collaboration with internal teams. Today, there are areas where our supply management process doesn’t match the way care is delivered, like in the ED.  How can we match the pace and level of care delivered in each area with more effective systems?
10) We’ve implemented a lot of change and it’s hard to make it stick. 

So what can you do to meet some of these challenges (and perhaps even get a good night of sleep)? 

First, look for best practices, either within healthcare or from other industries. There are some health systems that have grown supply chain automation remarkably in the last few years, using new technology and teamwork to design and implement new processes. (PA Hospital Case Study PDF below)

Second, match your supply management processes to the care being delivered. (It’s likely nurse leaders will be happy to partner with you on this initiative.)  This will help align supply chain and nursing, and reduce overstocking, stock-outs, hoarding and waste. (White Paper: Reducing Costs by Improving Process and Technology)

Next, identify new technology that will close gaps. It needs to be easy to implement, easy for staff to adopt and affordable. Cloud-based is important so you can stay on updated versions of software. There’s a lot of technology that can augment your ERP with improved functionality, increased visibility and access to data. 

Finally, change management is hard – don’t give up! You may be familiar with the ADKAR model, which suggests change management needs:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

There’s a lot of supply chain pain in healthcare. But there are also plenty of ways to make improvements and each step you take may move you just a little closer to a good night’s sleep! Let us know how we can help.