Hospital leaders want more clinician engagement, more data in supply chain

A new survey by McKinsey & Company outlined some of the facets that go into better supply management and areas of improvement.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and health systems leaders have wrestled with problems getting essential supplies.

Early in the pandemic, hospitals were scrambling to find personal protective equipment. Last year, some hospitals and health systems were seeking donations of crutches and wheelchairs. During the spring, hospitals delayed exams due to a shortage of contrast dye, used in imaging, because a major plant was idled during a COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai.

Hospital executives appear to have a newfound appreciation for the importance of the supply chain. A McKinsey & Company survey released Wednesday offered perspectives of healthcare leaders on improving the supply chain.

The McKinsey survey indicated that most respondents said strong supply chain management requires involvement of both hospital executives and clinicians. The respondents indicated that hospital leaders and clinicians need to be involved before and during contracting periods.

More data, more engagement

C-suite executives and vice presidents and directors were surveyed about areas of investment. There were many similarities in the responses, but some differences in perspectives, according to McKinsey.

Both the C-suite and lower-level leaders identified strong data and analytics capabilities as the top area of investment over the next year. The survey found better engagement with frontline clinicians and talent development ranked second and third, respectively, on the list of priorities for investment.

Vice presidents and directors placed a higher priority on finding value beyond simply saving on costs. Interestingly, vice presidents and directors were more likely to say they wanted to see greater C-suite involvement in supply chain management than those in the C-suite.

While the survey found high clinician involvement led to better supply chain management, executives surveyed said that a lack of involvement from clinicians, along with an unwillingness to identify acceptable substitutes for some supplies, loomed as major obstacles to success.

Healthcare executives also said they wanted to have more transparency in data regarding supplies. They said some health executives said they would like more information on the costs and benefits in choosing supplies.

The McKinsey report suggested hospital leaders should engage in three key strategies to improve supply chain management: engage senior clinical leaders, such as chief medical officers and chief nursing officers, in clinical supply chain issues; establish teams to develop strategies for each category; and invest in supply chain teams.

McKinsey gathered responses from 121 hospitals in December 2021 to compile the report.

‘Hope strategy is gone’

Gordon Slade, the senior director of supply chain logistics at Intermountain Healthcare, told Chief Healthcare Executive last November that hospitals have learned they need to examine supplies and make orders far earlier than they did before. “We have to be far more proactive than setting out a purchase order,” he said. “The hope strategy is gone.”

Slade also stressed the importance of working with physicians and other healthcare professionals in ordering clinical supplies. “We’ve probably never been tighter than we are now with our clinicians,” Slade said last fall.

Gregg Lambert, senior vice president of Kaufman Hall, told Chief Healthcare Executive last fall that hospitals and health systems should consider having a more diverse pool of suppliers. Health systems also need to apply more scrutiny in contracting with vendors.

“You get to know their products and contracting philosophy,” he said. “Take it a step further. Where are they sourcing products? Where will I be on allocation should there be disruption? What will you do with disruption?”