5 highlights from HIDA Streamlining Healthcare 2022

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By Kevin Dubuc 

Last month, a few colleagues and I flew out to Chicago to attend and exhibit at the Streamlining Healthcare Expo & Business Exchange conference presented by the Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA).  

It was an insightful three-day event that brought together experts and industry leaders from across the healthcare landscape to discuss the pain points around distributing and supplying medical products in the U.S.  

Interested in what I learned? Here are five key takeaways: 

  1. Solving supply chain challenges requires clear purpose and creativity 
  2. A diverse supplier base helps everyone win 
  3. Manufacturers and distributors should be in constant communication 
  4. Healthcare suppliers can help mitigate climate change 
  5. The healthcare landscape is shifting in new directions 

Solving supply chain challenges requires clear purpose and creativity 

The keynote presentation was a thoughtful discussion with Gustave F. Perna, a retired four-star general of the United States Army who also served as the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed (OWS). OWS was a collaborative partnership between private and public organizations with the aim of accelerating the development, manufacture, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines during the height of the pandemic.  

As COO of this massive initiative, General Perna was most concerned with building an effective team to get the job done. In his keynote, he shared his three objectives for making OWS a success: 

  1. Finding and assembling a team of people able to approach and solve challenges from creative, unexpected angles. 
  2. Unifying the team with a clear purpose - ensuring everyone knew what they needed to do and what was at stake.  
  3. Fostering an environment where big egos do not stand in the way of getting things done. 

A diverse supplier base helps everyone win 

During the supplier diversity summit, representatives from Premier, Cardinal Health, and Henry Ford Health System discussed how important it is for medical product manufacturers and distributors to have a strong supplier diversity program.  

These programs recognize that broken or inefficient medical supply chains can be repaired by sourcing products and services from previously underutilized suppliers in the market. Contracting a diverse supplier base increases patient access to care while building wealth in the communities that health systems are a part of. This also helps foster competition and innovation across the healthcare ecosystem.  

Manufacturers and distributors should be in constant communication 

COVID-19 exposed many existing vulnerabilities in the medical supply chain and created a number of new challenges for companies to overcome. Moving forward, healthcare organizations will need to balance resiliency and cost when building new sourcing strategies. 

How can this be done? Speakers from CommonSpirit, UPMC, and the University of Chicago Medicine say that clear communication is essential to building new supply chains and making them more secure and resilient than before.  

The speakers explained how, in the early months of the pandemic, many organizations adopted different operating models to source hard-to-find products like masks, gowns, and gloves. Some organizations tried to procure products directly from overseas manufacturers instead of going through traditional channels.  

Unfortunately, this only resulted in more supply chain bottlenecks as manufacturers and distributors strained themselves to adapt to so many different operating models. And many organizations were heavily impacted by labor disruptions caused by the pandemic, which made it more difficult to ensure supply needs were met.  

The speakers urged that organizations should communicate challenges as far in advance as possible moving forward. Keeping communication channels between manufacturers, distributors, and health systems open makes it easier to find and source reliable substitutions so operations remain running smoothly.  

Healthcare suppliers can help mitigate climate change 

In a session on prioritizing sustainability within healthcare, speakers from Practice Greenhealth and other organizations urged listeners that mitigating the effects of climate change should still be at the forethought of strategic thinking, even as the impact of the pandemic is still felt.  

Fortunately, healthcare organizations across the supply chain can take many actions to combat climate change. Four big ideas were shared: 

  1. Closely assess how packaging can be changed or reduced to eliminate waste in a facility.  
  2. Work with vendors to create a path toward low-carbon or net zero-carbon emissions in your supply chain.  
  3. Help create a circular economy by contracting with a diverse array of suppliers in the areas you service.  
  4. Source products that are third-party certified to ensure compliance with standards. 

The healthcare landscape is shifting in new directions 

Finally, I attended a panel on the continuing shift in value-based care and its effects on the healthcare landscape. Panelists from Concordance Healthcare Solutions, Water Street, and Clarivate discussed how trends in hospital visits suggest patient preferences are changing.  

In recent years, more patients are receiving care outside the walls of a hospital operating room. Instead, they are going to ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), outpatient clinics, and urgent care centers, or seeking at-home care. According to Definitive Healthcare data, hospital surgical procedure volume dropped 7% between 2019 and 2021, while ambulatory surgical procedures rose 20% in the same period. 

While hospitals may no longer be the epicenter for patient care, the panelists explained how hospitals and health systems can partner with physician groups to keep costs down while maintaining strong care outcomes. Healthcare commercial intelligence can play a major role in making this possible. PhysicianGroupView, for example, can provide hospitals access to detailed breakdowns of active physician groups in their territory, and the executive contact information needed to open a dialogue for partnership.  

Learn more 

Overall, my time at HIDA 2022 left me feeling energized and inspired. It was great to hear healthcare leaders not only provide their perspectives but also share valuable tips for improving the medical supply chain and adapting to new trends in the healthcare landscape.  

For more information on overcoming supply chain challenges, I suggest you look at our infographic: “Navigating the weak links in the medical supply chain.” Or you can start a free trial today to get hands-on with our data and see how it can help you grow your business.

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