Supply Chain Reimagined

Managing the supply chain in non-acute healthcare has notoriously been complex and fragmented. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath exacerbated the existing complexities and challenges and brought about disruption and uncertainty. At the same time, shrinking reimbursements and skyrocketing supply and staffing costs are adding pressure to the financial sustainability of healthcare providers. These compounding challenges put ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and non-acute providers under an unprecedented strain, testing the resiliency of the entire healthcare ecosystem. Now more than ever, ASC leaders must optimize their operations to drive efficiency and enable cost savings through their supply chain and finance teams. 

Tonia Kraus has over 30 years in non-acute healthcare and supply chain leadership, with over 20 years as an executive in group purchasing organizations. She serves as Vice President and leads Strategic Supplier Engagement at triValence. We asked her to share insights on the challenges the non-acute providers face and the strategies to help alleviate the pain points for both customers and vendors. 

In Tonia’s view, healthcare leaders, especially those in the non-acute sector, grapple with threefold but intertwined challenges: people, processes, and data.

“Now more than ever, leaders of ASCs and non-acute centers must turn every rock inside their organizations to find opportunities to optimize their operations to drive efficiency and enable cost savings,” Tonia says. “Technology can play a huge part and should no longer be viewed as a luxury. It’s become a necessity,” she adds.  

One of the critical challenges the industry faces right now is staff shortages; therefore, talent development and retention are vital to ensuring long-term success. Staff shortages are forcing people to wear too many hats in the organization, often performing tasks ‘below their license’ that are manual and time-consuming, which is a recipe for burnout. For example, it is common for smaller surgery and non-acute centers to have nurses and clinicians manually manage inventory, taking them away from patient care. “There is so much waste and unnecessary burden on staff as a result of antiquated supply chain processes and the lack of automation,” Tonia notes and adds that the non-acute sector has never been quick to adopt technology and automation. Yet, technology and automation are the levers that can revolutionize the workplace and processes in the supply chain ecosystem similarly, which was critical for transforming other industries. 

Automating processes in supply chain doesn’t only mitigate the burnout from the manual, time-consuming and repetitive tasks. It can also minimize inconsistences and errors, enabling both providers and vendors to have greater visibility – from inventory to cash flow. More importantly, it significantly reduces time spent on ordering supplies or tracking the expired products. “Time is often an overlooked cost and automation can help reduce tasks that take hours to minutes,” Tonia says. “It can help materials managers avoid death by thousand SKUs,” she adds.  

The next generation procurement to pay solutions benefit suppliers too. Variations across the healthcare supply chain are significant, adding to the complexity. Vendors typically have thousands of customers whose methods for receiving orders, invoicing customers, and payment varies widely as do payments dates, obscuring the visibility into cash flow. The triValence solution can integrate with suppliers’ existing platforms, and improve the entire order to cash process, offering one platform improving the entire order to cash process.

“Technology-driven intuitive solutions like ours can provide greater visibility of crucial data and more accurate forecasting, which benefits both sides of the supply chain spectrum – providers and suppliers alike,” Tonia notes. “These valuable insights can help the supply chain continuum to overcome fragmentation, strengthen the relationship between providers and vendors, and enhance the much-needed resiliency of the entire ecosystem.”

While supply chain management in healthcare is inherently a B2B business, there are some lessons that it can learn from B2C companies in other industries as they grapple with supply chain challenges during the pandemic and its aftermath. “Take restaurants, for example. Those who survived and thrived during the pandemic were those establishments that quickly embraced technology, such as contactless payment and QR codes….”  A whole new ecosystem was born out of the necessity to adapt, enabling ordering or helping them reduce the lag time of data, pick-ups, and third-party delivery, all backed by technology.     

Healthcare supply chains could take a page from the restaurant industry when it comes to meeting customers’ demands by building flexible products and adopting technology at a fast rate, all of which helped them build agility.

Tonia, who has spent her entire career in the non-acute sector, believes the industry is due for an overhaul. Intelligent solutions offered by triValence can unlock a treasure trove of data currently in silos, strengthening the entire ecosystem. Her industry knowledge is deep because she understands the value of relationships between healthcare providers, GPOs, and vendors. She also learned that a strong relationship with a vendor is critical to customer satisfaction. She joined triValence because she saw the opportunity to be a part of the team that would bring a positive change to the industry in desperate need of innovation. “Because our industry is so complex and fragmented, it is easy to lose sight of the customer’s needs. At triValence, I am surrounded by brilliant colleagues who worked in some of the most customer-centric organizations, spanning healthcare and fintech. We believe our solution and partnership with vendors will enable clinicians to spend more time on patient care and help alleviate the administrative burden.”  

(Tonia and Sneha Patel, director of perioperative product development at triValence, recently spoke about the impact of for staff shortages on the ASC and non-acute sector on John Goehle’s podcast. You can listen to their conversation here.) 

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