UChicago Medicine Supply Chain team thrives when aligning with clinicians

July 24, 2023

UChicago Medicine’s Supply Chain team demonstrates their support of and inherent value to clinicians through strategic sourcing, value analysis, inventory planning teams, and the “ACD” process. 

Strategic sourcing brings clinicians together with Supply Chain to leverage targeted product and service areas with selected suppliers in the areas of capital equipment, service, consumables, clinical trials and value analysis, contract management and negotiation, spend analytics, category management, supplier relationship management, and supplier scorecarding that evaluates supplier performance. 

“At our organization, the Strategic Sourcing team also owns the Value Analysis and Contracting process, and each Sourcing Category Leader is responsible for leading the VA team in their categories,” explained Ian O’Malley, director, Strategic Sourcing Clinical. “This enables Strategic Sourcing to have both that macro view of how a device conversion may impact a category of spend or a multi-divisional contract, but also the micro view tied to how that device is impacting patient care, quality, and clinician satisfaction. This enables our team to quickly put together business cases for various scenarios, and establish strategic negotiation plans that align with clinical needs.” 

The VA Executive Steering Committee comprises a majority of clinical specialties with executive and operational leadership to empower and encourage local teams to make decisions based on UCM standards using appropriate metrics to track and ensure ROI, according to Eric Tritch, Vice President, Supply Chain & Support Services. 

“In our VA meeting, we present a product comparison page to give a 'head-to-head' view of what we are currently using, versus what the presenting clinicians want us to convert to or add to our inventory,” described John Mayer, assistant director, Strategic Sourcing Clinical. “The primary data points are annual or monthly usage, which is pulled from Tableau, cost per use, and some feedback around proposed clinical benefits or operational improvements. 

“Clinicians appreciate the simplicity of this view, and how it breaks down the financials to help understand the organizational impact tied to this decision,” Mayer continued. “Many are completely unaware of the costs of these devices so many times, this data can be new to them. We have found that our clinicians are extremely practical in evaluating these, and unless there is a significant and tangible/measurable metric that can be tracked, a negative financial impact is usually enough for them to withdraw support for converting or trialing a product.” 

Cara Eason, manager, Strategic Sourcing Clinical, notes that the Strategic Sourcing team has access to cost-per-case reporting via an internal dashboard created by using Epic data fed into Tableau, and also a cost-per-case tool developed by their GPO Vizient, which gives them some benchmark data against other organizations along with outcome measurements.  

“There is a hunger for visibility into this data from our surgeons, but our team is selective about how we present and communicate these opportunities as the largest effort on our end is validating the accuracy of the data,” Eason indicated. “We have found that pushing out canned reports can create a lack of trust if there are any errors in the data, which can establish a barrier to future projects with those surgeons. Our team selects and targets specialties and surgeons, partnering with the Chair/Chief of the department to kick off these projects, and identifying a clinical project champion before working with the individual surgeons.” 

Supply Chain’s Inventory Planning team represents a specialized team of inventory planners that support surgeons by specialty. In fact, each specialty (14 in total) has an on-site FTE that collectively support more than 80 cases per day to ensure all clinicians have the materials they need to operate safely and successfully, Tritch says. 

“The Inventory Planning team is viewed as critical part of our operation to manage the most complex supplies, implants, special requests,” noted Vella Stevanovic, director, Supply Chain Operations, Hyde Park. “We view each inventory planner as an inventory manager of the assigned area where they manage flow of material, flow of information, flow of money, relationship with customer and vendor for the respective area. Having this group has allowed us to optimize the areas with the highest amount of inventory dollar-wise, and achieve very high levels of service, reliability, cost-effectiveness, and trust with our customers/clinicians. The level of staff for all areas is determined based on a labor model that includes inventory planners. Thus, the size of the organization would determine the size of the inventory planner team.” 

Supply Chain’s “ACD” process represents a formal mechanism for clinicals to “Add/Change/Delete” items from their respective areas. Clinicians simply complete the ACD form and send it to the inventory planner responsible for the specific location to complete the requested action rather than submitting an email, says Atanas Ilchev, System Director, Supply Chain Operations & Logistics. 

“Going from email to an official form/process across the entire organization took some time,” he admitted. “I could say I was nicely surprised by the level of acceptance in most areas as clinicians followed the process/steps asked of them. I think clinicians learned to appreciate the consistency of the process, which helped with further adoption and now is second nature when it comes to changes to supply locations. Clinicians use the process to remove items as well, but ‘removes’ are much more rare than ‘adds.’” 

Ilchev notes that the process also provides visibility into requests and helps keep both parties accountable – clinicians and Supply Chain.