National Health Care Supply Chain Week happened earlier this month. This week provides an opportunity to recognize the integral role supply chain professionals play in delivering high-quality patient care. This industry might also be the key to lowering ever-rising healthcare costs. We spoke with some of Encompass Health’s supply chain team in Birmingham to learn more about it–and got the scoop on a job opportunity available.
But first, what is supply chain?
Supply chain is a network between a business and their suppliers to produce or distribute a competitive and cost effective product to the end consumer. This chain could involve raw materials, people, technology and a host of other tools to get the job done. Though you might think of this as applying to consumer goods, stores like Home Depot or manufacturers, it is also utilized in healthcare.
“It’s the flow and storage of goods and services to the customer,” said Cody Carter, supply chain project coordinator at Encompass Health. In Encompass Health’s model, the customer is the hospital.
Supply chain includes creating contracts, sourcing medical supplies and equipment as well as supporting daily operations and the front line clinicians who ensure patient needs are well taken care of. For Encompass Health, an inpatient rehabilitation provider, these supplies cover a range of items like therapy bands to increase a patient’s arm strength after a stroke or dressing to help a wound heal faster.
Like a puzzle
Much consideration goes into choosing suppliers for Encompass Health’s hospitals. The supply chain team works closely with the company’s subject matter experts to ensure the products selected are both high quality and cost effective. They then look to standardize across their 135 locations (and growing) to take advantage of economies of scale. This involves poring over data to see what works and what’s available. “It’s like a puzzle,” said Carter.
Jimmy Neeley, supply chain field operations and energy analyst at Encompass Health, likes that no two days are the same. “Every day is challenging,” he said. “It’s never boring.”
The rising costs of healthcare
“From a national perspective, the cost of healthcare is on everyone’s minds,” said Elizabeth Box, supply chain development and project analyst at Encompass Health. “A big part of that is supply chain.”
How? The goal at Encompass Health is to create efficiencies and standardizations across the company that lower costs for the hospital. “The quickest way to decrease costs is to optimize the supply chain,” added Carter.
The impact of supply chain at Encompass Health
Neeley said that although supply chain works behind the scenes, it touches every facet of the organization and has a big impact on Encompass Health’s hospitals. “We are able to negotiate better contract terms because of our size, and that helps our hospitals with their bottom line,” said Neeley. “They know costs and distribution channels will be steady and stable. We help lighten the burden for them.”
The supply chain team is always looking for ways to optimize. Box explained that this includes looking into other areas of the company like energy and food for savings opportunities.
“We’ve been able to branch out beyond what is normally considered supply chain,” she said. Food, for example, is a huge expense for hospitals, and Encompass Health caters to over 16 different diet types. Standardization in menus is a good way to help keep costs under control. It also allows for patients to know what they are getting and trust that their various dietary needs will be met in addition to their physical needs—whether they are kosher, vegetarian, diabetic, or otherwise.
Thought about a career in supply chain?
“[Supply chain] is a support service that historically doesn’t get a lot of attention,” said Neeley. However, that is not the case at Encompass Health. “We’re viewed differently here than others in the healthcare space. There are benefits of being at a corporate office,” including getting to interact with coworkers in various departments across the organization.
Are you looking for a career in supply chain? If so, Encompass Health’s SCO coordinator role might be for you–the company is hiring now.