Supply Chain shouldn’t be rated PG or R

Dec. 21, 2022

Managing the healthcare supply chain within a provider enterprise/organization should not be like parenting underage children.

To be successful in healthcare, supply chain requires leaders as well as managers – much like their occupational kinfolk in other industries, such as foodservice, hospitality, manufacturing and retail.

As you likely know, in the film industry the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) operates under a rating system that it uses to classify movies based on content. Intentionally omitting the rated content that falls under the 24th letter of the alphabet, cinephiles and moviegoers alike recognize four common levels – G for General, PG-13 for Parental Guidance if under 13, PG for Parental Guidance and R for Restricted.

For far too long, healthcare supply chain managers have been relegated to PG and R ratings.

How so? Think of PG as indicating “Professional Guidance” by the C-suite; think of R as indicating “Restrictive” by the C-suite.

So what? Not so.

A quote by Vizient’s David Hermann, shared second-hand and paraphrased here, motivated this edition’s Buyline topic to start 2023. Hermann has a storied history with Healthcare Purchasing News in that more than a decade ago, he periodically penned HPN’s “Clinical Business Strategies” column while an executive with Aspen Healthcare Metrics, which became part of MedAssets, which then became part of Vizient.

Hermann’s quote went something like this: Healthcare supply chain managers are only as good as saying “no.” They’re not authorized or empowered to say “yes.”

This. Must. Change.

We may roll our eyes out loud referring time and again to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting supply chain disruptions, but so be it. If anything, the events of the last two years (2020-2022) have showed us problems with performance, process and workflow but they also should have taught us – warned us – about problems with decision-making … as in hierarchy.

Disagree all you want but the ongoing labor shortages and the folding of purchased services – which includes third-party labor, by the way – within the healthcare supply chain bucket translates into SUPPLY CHAIN BEING THE NO. 1 COST CENTER IN A HEALTHCARE ENTERPRISE/ORGANIZATION. Emphasis in all caps intended.

It’s time for the industry to wake up to that fact. Like in non-healthcare industries, Supply Chain – as a titled proper noun that earns capitalization – is a big deal because it represents a key component of the economy. Think of it as a stent used to prop open healthy commerce.

Whether the C-suite invites Supply Chain to the mahogany table at the same level as the other C’s and O’s, or relegates Supply Chain to third-party purchased service status with a dotted line to the gilded executive tower, know this: Supply Chain will make or break an organization. Some useful advice? Look no further than the Knight Templar guarding the Holy Grail in the 1989 film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” who instructed the ill-fated antagonist and the successful protagonist to “Choose wisely.”

Needlessly melodramatic? Maybe. But do you want to take that chance long-term?

If your organization does not have a “leader” to run Supply Chain, then determine the qualities you seek, find and train the internal professional who possesses them or find and recruit the qualified external professional.

The last two years demonstrated that Supply Chain must be empowered to pivot and go – quickly if necessary – with the C-suite’s full support, trust, authorization and blessing.

Bottom line: To be successful in healthcare supply chain needs to be run by leaders – those who the C-suite rates as G for “Go” – as in go make the decision.