Fairview Health’s supply chain team shares milestones, mindsets that motivate success

June 26, 2017

Fairview Health’s LeAnn Born, Vice President, Supply Chain Management, for the Minneapolis-based integrated delivery network, shared with Healthcare Purchasing News her team’s attitudes and motivations behind what, how and why they do what they do with valuable insights on what helps them

HPN: What’s the secret formula that makes a leader in supply chain management? How does your department implement that secret formula?

BORN: Customers + Performance + Innovation = Success. Focus on the customers –
Think about the needs of our patients, the team of people we lead and the people
in the departments we serve. Perform well – Create an environment where
employees can be productive and accountable for meeting the needs of our
customers. Pursue innovation – Learn from the past, but spend time thinking
about what’s needed in the future and be willing to try something new.

Fairview Supply Chain employees care deeply about the customers we serve. The department has a track record of performing well, and we get excited about trying new ideas.

The next big trend in healthcare supply chain management will be… [fill in the blank]. Why?

The 5 Rights! The right price will continue to be important, but we will make a difference in healthcare supply chain by going beyond that to make sure we are using the right products in the right quantity having them in the right place at the right time. This will require innovative supplier collaboration, have a positive affect how we use the products and allow us to extend value beyond products to other non-labor expense opportunities.

Some in the “C-suite” have criticized supply chain managers for being too technical and not strategic enough to “join their club.” Do you agree? Why?

I think it is more the nature of certain people and organizations to be too technical or not strategic enough. “Joining the club” can be achieved in a healthcare organization that focuses performance and new ideas around the needs of the population served by the organization. “The Club” is attainable by a supply chain leader that is willing to build relationships, deliver exceptional service and pursue innovative ideas that will prepare the department and the organization for where they need to be in the future.

How can consulting firms, distributors and GPOs contribute to the performance of your internal supply chain management expertise without overshadowing the department or
usurping control?

Enable the organization to succeed in partnership with the third party. As the consultant, distributor or GPO is offering its service, it should be engaging the people in the health system to participate and own the work. It involves more teaching or enabling not just doing. These external resources should be helping the health system get to a point that the health system would not have been able to get to on their own.

What specific project did your department complete where you felt they didn’t lived up to your expectations?

Nothing comes to mind where the department did not live up to my expectations, but there are many situations where I learn from the way we did things and apply that learning to future situations. One example last year related to how we budget for supply chain savings. Although we had conversations with department leaders, we did not loop back to them with complete information about how the savings were baked into their budgets. Finance and Supply Chain were well-connected with aligned knowledge about the departments and general ledger accounts for each project. However, this information did not get back to
the departments in a succinct fashion. This year we added steps to engage the departments more clearly defined ways and documented the process so everyone will know what to expect. We are now communicating this process and initiating the well-defined steps as we prepare our 2018 budget.

In your opinion, what is your department’s toughest administrative challenge? How might you solve it?

The new pace that has been set over the last few years. In the past, we used to think “we’ll get through this major change and things will settle down.” These days multiple major changes are overlapping and before one is complete, the next major change begins. Dealing with this requires setting priorities and finding ways to do the work differently. Working faster during longer hours is not going to get it done, nor is it sustainable for people. We have to challenge ourselves to do fewer things in different ways to get it done.

What is your department’s toughest operational challenge? How might you solve it?

We provide services to a diverse group of customers that are not always aligned in how they perceive their needs. Our services are delivered in intense supply patient care locations, high-volume commodity locations, office settings, etc. Our customers are employed by Fairview, part of strategic relationships like with the University of Minnesota Physicians and with third parties. Our physicians are employed, academic and independent. The diversity can be interesting, but it also can cause us to be less efficient in how we deliver our service as many of these customers want a customized approach. Our team does a good job of guiding our customers toward common needs whenever possible while
recognizing when a customized need must be served.

What are your top three priorities for the remainder of 2017 and for 2018?

  1. Top Savings Projects – We have a few projects that will help us achieve up to 20 percent of our total savings target.
  2. Employee Engagement – Creating sustainable engagement with a focus this year on breaking down or through obstacles.
  3. Utilization – While ensuring that we’re paying the right price, focus on how and what products we’re using.

How does the CEO view your department? Does he or she see it as a strategic function or a support service? What resources can the department count on and will they come every year – and not just in response to clinician complaints?

James Hereford, our CEO, is setting great direction and we have direct line of sight as to how Supply Chain fits in. James trusts us to deliver our service and supports us when we identify needs for leadership engagement. Supply Chain is both a strategic function and a valued support service across the organization. I know that James is there if we need him, but because of the support we get from leaders throughout the organization, we don’t need to call on him often. We have actually had more opportunities to reach out to James with
ideas to get his thoughts on how we can develop ideas to make us better in the future.

What are some practical, common sense ways that supply chain managers can keep patient satisfaction in mind as they’re performing their duties?

Addressing the needs of our patients is more obvious as our service is delivered in our hospitals and clinics. It can be more difficult to relate to when our service is delivered from a corporate office location. Regardless, I observe Supply Chain staff connecting the work that they do to the caregivers and to the patients. Most people in Supply Chain know that care can’t be delivered unless we get the supplies to the caregivers. In addition to talking
with each other about how this happens, we use job shadowing and rounding to observe it or encourage more dialogue about the ways we affect the patient experience.

If you could change one C-suite and clinical (physician/nursing) perception of your department, what would it be and why?

It’s funny that people often don’t think Supply Chain should be involved with a certain topic, but they will ask people in the department about it because they trust them to solve problems and know that the staff in Supply Chain will help them out. This perception by others is not a bad thing, but the way I view it, the people make the department what it is!

How can supply chain managers collaborate with other departments and professionals and convince them that their decisions are based on the financial health of the organization and
not in denying them quality products or dictating patient care as the clinicians might tell the CEOs?

We can’t control how others think. What we can do is deliver consistent, high quality, efficient service. I think people know that we are all focused on ensuring quality products are available in the most cost effective way.

What advice do you have for professionals outside of healthcare wanting to enter into the field of healthcare supply chain management (whether college students or from other

The healthcare supply chain has nuances that need to be recognized and appreciated. When people join us from other industries, they need to be open to learning about the experiences that have influenced how we deliver our supply chain services and carefully help us adopt new ideas that will allow us improve. There are reasons we do what we have always done. There are also opportunities for us to do things differently in the future.

About the Author

Rick Dana Barlow | Senior Editor

Rick Dana Barlow is Senior Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News, an Endeavor Business Media publication. He can be reached at [email protected].