This episode’s Hospital Healer is Suzi Collins, CMRP. Suzi is the Market Director of Supply Chain for Steward Health Care’s Arizona locations. In the healthcare supply chain community, Suzi has made a name for herself by creating engaging content that tackles the mundane yet important aspects of health care supply chain.
Her goal with creating this content: to attract the next generation of talent into the industry. Suzi has gone as far as to leverage TikTok in an effort to connect with teens. Despite the trials and tribulations of the pandemic years, Suzi calls them the proudest years of her career. She believes the pandemic elevated supply chain and now is the time to keep that momentum. Suzi wants all healthcare supply chain professionals to keep their foot on the gas!
After Suzi’s interview, we welcome Kermit Strategic Advisor Lisa Hudson-Ventura who lends her expertise in Lean Six Sigma and shares how she leveraged the methodology during her time at Memorial Sloane Kettering.
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Rich Palarea: Well, hello everybody and welcome back to Healing the Hospital Podcast. I'm Richard Palarea. On today's show, we have another phenomenal Hospital Healer for you, Suzi Collins. She's the market director of supply chain for Steward Healthcare's, Arizona facilities. I'm going to keep my opening comments short because I want you to hear directly from Suzi.
We covered some important topics like what it's like to be in charge of supplies in the middle of a pandemic, and whether that pressure has lessened or just transitioned into something else, and how healthcare supply chain rose to the occasion as a profession across the nation as the pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of the right products at the right time to keep our talented physicians and clinicians delivering healthcare services on our front lines.
But one thing I want to discuss with you today ahead of Suzi's interview is the dire staffing shortage that hospitals are facing. From the tip of the iceberg with 969 hospital CEOs leaving their roles through the third quarter of 2022, to the extreme shortage of allied healthcare professionals affecting 85% of US healthcare facilities, we face an extreme urgent situation.
Hospitals have been forced to hire back staff who left and joined the traveler nurse and contract industry, at two and three times previous salary levels. Now, a true Hospital Healer cannot see this problem and ignore it, and that is precisely who Suzi is. She will tell you that we need to reach the next generation of healthcare professionals now and reach them where they are on social media.
Would it surprise you that she has identified the next generation of those who are 15 years of age? It surprised me and I wondered if I'd be able to embrace something with this massive of a scope and likely something that I would not be around to see the results of. Suzi reminded me that now is not the time to slow down as we're just starting to see lasting change and progress being made.
It is time to put our collective foot on the gas, as she said. So I don't want to keep this great content from you, and I want you to get to know Susie for yourself. So let's jump right into the introduction and conversation.
Okay, so we're now joined by Suzi Collins. Let me just introduce Suzi to you. I think you're really going to enjoy this interview and this discussion.
Suzi is the market director of supply chain for the Arizona facilities of Steward Healthcare, and she's navigated the challenges faced by our nation's hospitals at Steward over the past five years. As a former supplier to hospital she possesses the unique perspective, what it looks like to truly partner with a hospital and brings to each supplier interaction.
She also has nearly 15 years of lean management approaches and methods. Suzi also holds the Association for Healthcare Resources and Materials Management AHRMM certification of CMRP, which is a Certified Materials Resource Professional, which she earned in 2019. Suzi, I'm so glad that you're here today.
How are you?
Suzi Collins: Doing great. A little warm today because I'm in Houston area, but other than that, doing great.
Rich: You're in Houston. We have to explain to the viewers how you got there. This is inventory week or maybe inventory month for you, right? You're spending a lot of time in your health system running around, helping them manage the inventory process.
Suzi: Yeah, and I don't normally have to help a lot, but the Port Arthur campus for Steward has a new leader that started in May. She's Candace. Awesome lady. But there's just a few, things that it's hard that pass down when you didn't have a chance to be with the previous leader and some other folks have left.
She was just floundering a bit and I offered to come and be an assistant for her.
Rich: That was very nice of you. You're in the Texas Gulf Coast. It's a weird November. We were just talking about this, my birthday is November 16th and I remember growing up in California we'd go to water slide parks and the like, but you don't really think about that when you live on the east coast like I do now. So, it's warm where you are?
Suzi: It is extremely warm. I was very surprised when I walked out of the airport last night. I was like, not expecting that at all.
Rich: Yeah. So, again, welcome to Healing the Hospital. We now can officially dub you when you're done with this interview, a Hospital Healer, but I already know that about you.
I know you're a Hospital Healer. The way that we define that here is kind of in a crude way, I would say it this way. Somebody who is not afraid of turning over a rock in healthcare and worried about what they're going to find on the underside of that, and they don't quietly put that thing back where it was and walk away ignoring everything there.
They like to take action and it actually bothers them if they don't work to fix that. So, those are the types of people we have on the show. And I wonder you've been around healthcare for a while now, both as a supplier, as a consultant, and now as administrative staff. Can you describe to me somebody who was a Hospital Healer in your life? Like a brief story about somebody who kind of fits that definition, who might have been a mentor or a coworker?
Suzi: Yeah I definitely first and foremost, pick Amy Bush. She is the COO of the WVU Children's Hospital, and she and I began our relationship around 2011, and she was my first big project utilizing Lean and the information that I had.
But I was very new to sitting in a C-suite. I was very new to having to be part of big financial decisions and learning about, the capital dollars and projects. And she was just so amazing in how she led meetings. Sharing her truth, calling out things that she felt like were going to be a problem later on and not being afraid to bring up those issues.
And it really did teach me a lot and we became, not only colleagues, but were very good friends. And watching what she's done in her career just inspires me.
Rich: That's super. I can tell, I'm just listening to the tone of your voice. I can tell she's really made an impact for you. When we were talking before we were kind of talking about the significant place that our hospitals find themselves in today.
Half of all hospitals this year are going to post an operating loss. We're hiring back the same employees that worked for us in hospitals at greater rates. It seems to be a real uphill battle. I was talking with one of our clients, a senior executive at one of our client locations, a large academic health system.
He said, we're going to have to fundamentally rethink how we deliver healthcare. So some of the things you mentioned to me are nurse travelers and the trend and how that's impacting the staffing and the economics of the hospital today and some other things. Can you just tell us what it's like at Ground Zero right now, inside of a significant hospital that serves a patient population in the area that you do?
Suzi: Yeah, I mean what we saw happen in 2020, I think is completely unprecedented compared to any other event that has happened. Whether that be Ebola, any other disease, or major flu season. The fact that we saw the need for travelers, because since this went up so significantly. But then also the marketing to all of these healthcare folks, respiratory therapists, clinicians, CNAs, lab people who were being, tempted to go work somewhere else for two or three months and leave their current job that had a very difficult effect I think on the hospital, both financially and socially.
But the reality is even though we knew Covid was coming and we expected things to be bad, I don't think we ever had a thought that we would have to budget not only in 2020, but in 2021 and going into 2022, the higher cost of labor.
And often, it's labor cost and supply cost. There's not a lot we can do to reduce supply spend anymore. And now all of a sudden we have this very, large investment in having to hire travelers. And there was nothing that really prepared us for that.
Rich: Yeah it's definitely a problem that we hear about across the nation. It's not even pockets or geographies. It really is the next offshoot of the pandemic that we're all talking about now. So, we're nearly two years after the initial onset of the pandemic. Can you tell us what it's like today in the hospital especially? What kinds of things do you and your team find that you really need the most now?
Suzi: Yeah, I mean, obviously it's interesting that right now we can get PPE. That's not really our issue. Pretty much anything else that involves plastic. There's anything from plastic basins to, higher end product like ureteral stents, which still involves plastic, right? So because of the delivery system, I don't think I ever really had the thought of how many different things, even if it had a little bit of plastic would be problematic.
But the fact that two years later we're still facing so many back orders, allocations, we've seen issues with IV fluids every day. We seem to have something new that's difficult to get. And we're kind of facing the clinicians who have been working so hard dealing with Covid, going through what they went through on the frontline, and then now the covid numbers are down, but we're still saying we're sorry we can't get that for you.
And they definitely have back-order fatigue. I think they're over hearing us say that. But the other thing is there's things that we probably should've been doing and purchasing in 2022 thinking that we were going to be in a better place yet again, so many of our dollars are going to staffing.
So it's really had an impact on what we've been able to do moving forward and making investments in new equipment, those types of things. It's harder to do because a lot of us just don't have those dollars.
Rich: So you feel like maybe it's put this whole game a little bit behind in where we thought we would be at this point after the pandemic. We're just not quite there yet.
What kinds of things then as both a leader and a newly dubbed Hospital Healer would you say are things that you really pay attention to, to kind of move the needle? I mean, you can't get supplies, especially anything that involves plastic or you're having trouble doing that and you have less dollars because you're committing more to staffing.
How do you think about your job and the staff you need to lead and be creative to keep everybody invested in a very important mission that you're in charge of?
Suzi: I think the biggest thing is that we still have to try to remain positive and with my team I try not to allow them to think that everything is terrible.
We have to just take each thing, each situation and treat it the best way that we can. And whether it's trying to find a different sub or having that conversation with the departments, how much do you use this? How in trouble are we, do we have a sister hospital that we might be able to borrow it?
Is there another option to have something similar and still be able to successfully do the procedure? At what point am I the one talking to the physician to explain it? Because again, that's another audience member who doesn't really want to hear us say back order anymore. Or allocation.
So it's really, we had to be much more involved on the clinical side to really understand its use. And it's interesting because we do have some products where we haven't gotten them for six months and we're not really hearing any complaints about that anymore. So, we're like, have they changed?
Have they changed their procedure? Did they find a sub even within our own products, that's actually now working fine. And when you go back and have that conversation, they're like it's okay though. We're probably going to be fine.
Rich: That's really interesting. So you know the business that we're in we do cost reduction for implantable medical devices. And you wonder too, like there must be just an enormous amount of waste in all of our health systems that when it comes to something like what we're dealing with now with the pandemic and the post pandemic and sourcing and all this kind of stuff. That you wonder when you don't hear complaints.
Like they figured it out, like life went on somehow, and it makes you kind of wonder like how much is there? I mean, maybe there's not a lot left inside of supplies to go after, but maybe there's more inside of kind of the background that you have, which is in lean to look at process improvement, to look at different areas and say, gosh, if we just had enough time and bandwidth, we could step back from this process.
We have to get ourselves out of the problem and look at what's going on. And we could really get creative about improving healthcare for the better, for the long term. Not just putting pun intended, a band aid on something, but really changing things. I mean, you have a lot of experience with lean. Can you just kind of lean on that lean experience for a moment and tell us how does that influence the way that you think strategically?
Suzi: Yeah, for sure. So it's interesting when you do a five S project and you're taking a room and you're cleaning it up and you're thinking about, where do they need it?
I was always taught that if they use it every day, it should be very close by. If they use it once in a while, it should be within the proximity. And if it's rarely used but still needed, it can be further away. And I've kind of taken that same philosophy with these products that we can't. If it's going to be far away because I physically can't get it to you, what are the options to make sure that you do have what you need close by?
And so I've been kind of thinking through that principle because we're just having to do it the opposite direction. And that's made me have some conversations with the clinicians, with the leaders of the departments to kind of challenge them, if you will. So you're telling me you need all six sizes, but we haven't been able to get these two sizes in a very long time.
Can we go ahead and talk about not waiting for these? Because the other challenge that we have, we’re moving to a new ERP system January 1st. I don't want to take a bunch of open lines on POs that are waiting for delivery if we don't really have to, because we're going to have to rebuild those purchase orders inside the other system.
So it's making us all think much more strategically, it's making us look at subs differently. Maybe the sub wasn't the right sub a few months ago, but as we show them again and saying, here's the slight difference in this. Do you think we can use this and we get a yes and all of a sudden we can close that original back order and move forward.
So it's really just making us think about what do we really have to have? And I do think it's reducing waste.
Rich: Yeah we have this moniker and this title that's widely used in healthcare strategic sourcing. That is strategic sourcing. That is how you apply basic logical principles about how you're going to do still get done what needs to get done, still take care of patients.
Still please surgeons and physicians without some things that you might be used to having and how do you get creative to do that? I mean, I hope that they really appreciate that. The clinical staff I'm talking about here, they really appreciate the job that you and your folks are doing because you're really the foundation, the underpinning of them being able to show up and practice medicine.
They are very talented people. But if they didn't have you to do that, they'd really be kind of at a loss. All of that training and all of that talent between their brains and their heart and their hands doesn't get delivered unless you guys are being strategic about what you're doing. Right?
Suzi: Yeah, and I think you and I talked about this before, we've gotten so much notoriety about what we do.
We've gotten kudos about the challenges that we faced, and even though Covid was very difficult, the positive light that it's shined on what we do what my team does from receiving to buying, to putting away. The nurses, the clinicians they do, they understand what we do far differently now than they did in 2019.
And for that, I'm actually, I'm grateful. That we're being looked at in a different light. I'm very proud of that.
Rich: Yeah. I think back to the, your AHRMM certification and the time that you've probably invested in that organization, which we have as well as suppliers, we really believe in what they're doing and the way that they're furthering the profession for such a time as this, this was the moment in history. For which we changed basically what might have been a warehouse style blue collar job in the basement under fluorescent lighting in many hospitals, and elevated it to a place where everybody could see the talent it takes to get the job done. And like you said you said notoriety, but I think it's just that recognition that they can't do what they need to do unless you guys are doing the job that you're doing.
So, it truly does take a team. It's a body of work. It's not the eye is more important than the hands. It's truly a body. That's the way that healthcare should work. I mean, even, I remember when we were chatting before I heard you say that the last three years have been the most challenging in healthcare, but you called them your proudest three years in healthcare.
Did you have to wait to realize that moment until you got a chance to breathe? Or did you actually know while it was going. Like, this is the moment where heroes are made. We've really got to step up to the occasion here.
Suzi: Yeah. I think I knew it as it happened because for many of us who were using a certain vendor's custom packs, who then had a very difficult recall in January of 2020.
So, we knew that Covid was out there. We still didn't know what true impact it was going to have. And so we were all in the midst of kind of dealing with that custom pack issue. And then all of a sudden we started to kind of get, start to see the warnings about the lack of PPE, the lack of gloves.
And so by the end of March when we mandated mask in the hospital, when we started to realize people were going to have to go through much more PPE than we ever expected, when we had to start kind of getting more IV fluids, doing all these things that weren't normal, March of 2020, it was already obvious that it was going to be a completely different situation compared to anything we had seen.
Now, I still believed then it was going to be done by the end of 2019. But we learned that wasn't really going to be true.
Rich: We were experiencing something similar in a professional organization. We were thinking, hospitals only save money on our platform when they're producing elective surgery.
So when they have that elective surgery, they get a savings based on what we've delivered. And we thought, okay, it's one thing for us to send our staff home, but there's no way hospitals are going to shutter their operating rooms. And sure enough it happened and then, it kept going and we really didn't know, like you were saying, we thought it was going to be over, like everything we were hearing on the news.
It's just two weeks to blunt the curve and then before you know it, it's two years. So can you tell us at Steward specifically without divulging anything that's confidential, just at the macro level, what are you seeing now with regard to patient surgical volumes? Are we kind of back to pre-pandemic levels yet, or are we still ramping up?
And what are some of the themes around that?
Suzi: Yeah, I think that we're seeing pretty consistent numbers and for us, we didn't go completely down, away from elective, but we certainly saw a decline, partly because people were afraid to come in. I think what's more telling or another negative outcome of Covid is you ask people to stay home and sit for six months, right?
I mean, there's people who, my father is one of them, became very sedentary and sat there and watched the news over and got caught up in this fear of being out. Well, they ate. They had less exercise. So, we've seen a lot more hips and knees coming out of Covid than I think we might have seen.
Because people aren't quite as healthy people aren't quite as active. And now that they're trying to get back, they're starting to feel the aches and pains. Things happen when you're sedentary. So we're definitely, I think, beginning to see that volume go back up to normal.
Rich: So it's an interesting thing that you're, obviously less science involved in this, more just sensing about what's going on with this correlation between unintended hip and knee surgery because of the pandemic. We are only thinking it's a respiratory disease. It's an orthopedic disease, it's a mental illness. It's all these different things that now we're seeing that we're systemic across the patient population because of what we've experienced.
And I wonder too, if we're really even done discovering all the different things that this has caused. But when I think about the people that we work with every single day in the hospital and people like you I marvel, I just kind of shake my head like, could I have done that? I'm a CEO of a business.
How would I have weathered that? I don't know. I mean, it takes a lot of fortitude to go through what you all did and you figured it on the fly. There's a lot to be said for that.
Suzi: Well, and we have lost a lot of people. I mean, that's the other part of the staffing challenges right? There are a lot of folks who don't want to work in healthcare anymore because they're either worried or they're concerned or, it just, it doesn't sound like a fun thing to do.
So, I think the fact. We've held onto the people that we have, and we're starting to see, like you mentioned earlier, we're starting to see that staff actually want to come back to the hospitals. I'm hoping that those pieces turn around and that we have learned a lot of things.
Rich: So, I hate to paint a negative hypothetical, but I'm very interested in your response to this.
So let's say that we don't get those staffing numbers back to where they are and people just take an interest in doing something different and we lose really bright minds and energetic young people that want to come in and follow the footsteps of somebody like you who's a great leader. What do you think the answer is both in the short term and the long term?
Do you have any hope for what we do as a healthcare society?
Suzi: I think we're going to need to have, there's going to need to be a conscious effort to actually speak to literally the young people, and I'm talking about 15 and under, to start getting them potentially thinking about working in healthcare because behind everything else that's occurred with Covid.
We also have my age of folks who are going to be coming up into, those elderly, not super soon, but you know, we've got an aging population that's going to need to be taken care of. I think it's going to change. You know, obviously telemedicine was a huge thing that we saw come out of Covid, the fact that we could diagnose things.
I think we're going to see more equipment and more innovation from the home monitoring standpoint. We're going to have to be more creative. Because if we don't have all those people, we're going to have to have another way of knowing how, someone like my dad is doing at home. So I think it's go ng to be different, but I think we're going to have to start talking to the young people.
Rich: Yeah. So it sounds like to me what you're saying is, now is not the time for us to sit back and take a breath. Ah, we're through Covid. I hope we're through covid. We're done with all this. Like, it sounds like the message that you're giving, at least to me and maybe others is, no, now is the time to put your foot on the gas.
We've got to really go and take the momentum that we've already produced and do something with it.
Suzi: And we had talked about that. I mean, I want people to be excited about coming into supply chain. I want to have a future state where the salary makes it want to come work for me in the hospital versus going to, chick-fil-A, I want them to be excited about being part of the healthcare continuum without having to have direct patient care.
Because there are a lot of people I admit that I know I could not be a nurse. That's not where my strengths are. So we need to getting out there and educating people. What are the other jobs you can do in a hospital, I think is super important. And we know I'm, I talk a lot on LinkedIn.
I share a lot, I'm trying to get my TikTok’s up. I want to get to those people so that they can understand that there are some really cool roles that you can do, and you could be part of the frontline workers and you could be part of the solution of changing people's lives.
Rich: Yeah. I want to just for the few minutes we have left, I want to focus a little bit on your social media efforts because I’ve become a fan. I wake up in the morning and there's usually an icon there that there's some content I need to go see, whether it's on TikTok or Instagram or LinkedIn, wherever you're putting this stuff.
And it's not just entertaining. Yes, it is. I think the way you're delivering this stuff is really fun, but you're giving really thoughtful stuff in a very compressed short period of time. Things that we can think about and if we want to join the conversation, we can. But I love that you're inviting us in and you're kind of provoking that next step.
We have very few people right now who are embracing social media from, as healthcare professionals to kind of harness that, but I like the intersection of where you are between, you mentioned some very young people, 15 years old to me, seems young. I don't have any kids that are even 15 anymore. They're all older than that.
So, to reach somebody at that level, I think you have to be on these platforms that you're on. If people give a follow, and we will have your information in the show notes where you can find all of Suzi's content. What kinds of things can they expect? I know you're just, some of this is brand new, but you have a lot of good stuff and I think you have plans for some other things. I'd love for you to share that.
Suzi: Yeah, I do. I mean, it's, Suzi does supply chain because I really am passionate about what I do for a living and I'm very proud of being a healthcare supply chain professional and I love the fact that my staff is engaged. I have fun with my team and I think that I want to both get the directors out there who are maybe not wanting to do things like that, but they say, Hey, you should check out this girl on TikTok, because I talk about things like rotating product and bins.
Not super exciting. Super important. Not super exciting. And then we try to have fun with it. And I've got some plans for some interesting things and silly things coming up in November. But I think it's just another way to get to that audience and maybe just, even if somebody sees it in their back of their head and they're like, Well, yeah, I wouldn't want to be a nurse, but that could be kind of fun.
So I think it's just thinking outside of the box and engaging with your staff because it was hard to keep them happy and not happy with their job. They needed some laughter, they needed some light humor. We were going through a really difficult time and unfortunately sometimes even they would get maybe a negative interaction with a nurse and they'd come back being like, oh, they were so mean. And I'd be like, they're not mean. Let's talk through this. And kind of becoming a counselor and a comedian and some of you can talk to and share frustrations and I think we had to rethink everything as we went through Covid.
So it's just something, I think for me, it's also a release, I get to focus on something that isn't, an Excel spreadsheet and dollar signs. And if I do a little bit of good, that's a good feeling. And I've gotten some good comments and positive comments in other questions, so I'm like, okay, people are actually looking at this.
So, I hope it continues to grow and I hope other people will join us.
Rich: I do too. And I know a couple of guests we've had on the show in previous months, and some that we have lined up will definitely want to follow you and be part of the voice that you're trying to curate in that space.
I think about so many professionals who do what you do or work in the areas, in and around the areas that you're in, who would say, I'm so busy. I'm so burned out by the time I leave the hospital. I just want to go home and have dinner and go to sleep. But this is what truly a Hospital Healer does, is further the conversation and engage people and talk about these things and you're having fun with it.
And I love what you're doing and so I'm already a new fan and I look forward to the other stuff that you put out there. Thanks so much for being here on our show today and I look forward to talking with you more.
Suzi: Thank you, Rich, so much. It was a very good time and I love what you guys are doing too. It's fantastic. Thank you.
Rich: Well, I'm pleased to welcome to the show. Lisa Hudson-Ventura. Lisa, it's great to have you here. Lisa works with us here at Kermit. She's a strategic advisor, which is a super important job. That's the person who actually manages all of the projects, the software implementation, really doing all the heavy lifting for our clients in the cost reduction effort that we do inside of hospitals.
But that's not Lisa's big story. She's only been here just a short period of time. Lisa joins us from a pretty nice career at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she held a number of different procurement and supply chain jobs, and before that she was with Siemens. So Lisa, it's great to have you.
How are you doing today?
Lisa Hudson-Ventura: Oh, I'm doing very well, Rich. Thanks for having me.
Rich: Yeah. We want to talk a little bit about, you had a chance to listen to that interview that just wrapped up with Suzi Collins, and I know you share kind of some similar background to Suzi, especially in the process improvement and lean consulting that you've done at different facilities.
And I'm wondering was there anything that stood out to you in listening to how she navigated the pandemic or what she's doing now with the limited resources she had? What really stood out to you that you really enjoyed hearing from her on?
Lisa Hudson-Ventura: Yeah, great question. I think the fact that she saw the opportunity to think lean and think how we could do things differently and engaging with leadership in those opportunities really struck out to me.
I think for a lot of us, the pandemic had to change the way that we did things. How we thought through things in any industry or any profession, and the fact that she was able to take a Lean approach where even in the healthcare space, Lean Six Sigma. Anything process improvement around that methodology, as long as it's been around, it's still new.
And not as highly adopted in that healthcare transactional space. So, it was really great that she was able to not only advocate for Lean, but show how it could be applied, especially in sourcing, and how we manage our product in a way that in most healthcare environments, you really don't see.
Rich: Yeah, you raise a good point because I think, even going back to the seventies, the advent of this method of thinking really came out of manufacturing. , we saw a lot of it, like Toyota for example, really led the way with Kaizen and how we plan for just in time supply chains and everything.
But the point you make is well taken that it really applies very nicely to healthcare and yet we don't have a widespread adoption of it, even though it's been around for a while. There are certain organizations that have embraced it and even they are still perfecting it. What was it like at Sloan Kettering for you?
Where you got to use some of this or are there certain things that kind of stand out as you look back? Because I think the pandemic was going on. Back when you were still with them, correct?
Lisa Hudson-Ventura: That is correct, yeah. And even prior to the pandemic coming in, because I had a lean background in a manufacturing setting my brain just naturally thinks that way. It embraces the concepts around it. But even coming into MSK there was so much opportunity. When you think about lean and really where it stems from is how do you eliminate waste? Where are the redundancies? Where are the pain points listening to your customers?
Regardless of what role you play it's process In, process out. You always have a customer. So for me and my team working in supply chain the hospital staff, that was my customer, and getting the feedback whether it was within contracting, procurement, purchasing even to accounts payable where we hand off our process even to the way how we move product throughout the hospital.
Just hearing the feedback of our customer really gave me those opportunities to now go further to say, why am I getting that feedback? I want to observe the waste before I can now paint that picture of, okay, here are the opportunities and also too starting at the lowest level. I mean, when you have a team of folks that live in the process, it's not necessarily from a top down approach.
It's really bottom up where it's really the folks that they have their hands in knee deep. Really doing the work, getting that feedback and really seeing them allowed me to say, okay, aha. Here are the opportunities within a hospital where we know that applying lean can really transform processes, and that was the opportunity I was able to make, especially in that procure to pay cycle.
Where, there's so many paper processes so many touch points that we have. Being able to just find those opportunities was really transformational.
Rich: I hope I don't embarrass you, but one of the things that I hear in my role every week, are accolades that come from our clients who really appreciate your very, kind of laid out methods and ways of thinking and processing things they feel very cared for, I think.
And they like the fact that we lead them well. And you're at the forefront of that for us. We appreciate that about you. Suzi said something in her interview that kind of struck me. She said the last three years of her job had been the best three years.
And I wondered for a minute, you look back on what we've all been through, and it was very different for me sitting in an office building than it was for you being on the clinical floor and for Suzi. And yet she said she wouldn't trade it for anything. It really put the profession of healthcare supply chain on the map.
People had a new appreciation for what it takes to get the right product at the right time into the hands of the right person, and it didn't always happen that way. And they had to then be creative to come up with other things that have been lasting to this moment. She was talking about how they've changed process and they're still facing adversity things like plastics, anything that's involved in supplies that have involve plastics are still difficult today.
And you deal with a lot of that inside of the role that we have you performing where you're on the front of these negotiation projects. What was it like back at Sloan Kettering where you had this situation where either did you know about it, like I asked Suzi, in the midst of the pandemic that this is hero making time or did it take some time that you had stepped away after it was kind of all calmed down and you said, gosh, what we came through. We really did a great job with that. How did you see that?
Lisa Hudson-Ventura: Oh no. It was time for us to be heroes. Whether or not we knew we were heroes, we knew this was the right opportunity to not waste a crisis and to really show what supply chain can do and what we've always done to be quite honest.
I always joke and say people don't realize that a supply chain exists until like their product is missing. If it's running seamless and everything's there, when you walk into the OR you walk in a room and you have what you need, there's really no afterthought. But once that's missing or once there's that critical void, it's always the supply chain that gets brought in or then gets recognized to say, we need your help.
And very early on, which Suzi had also mentioned the first thing was PPE. That was it. The product that you think the least of, that's really the least of everyone's worries now became the heightened critical thing that now we really have to solve for. And what was interesting, at least with just how we solved for that at MSK, these were things that were so routine where we thought we had processes.
Contracts in place. We had all of the suppliers, involved to say, this is something that we never have to worry about. And then it became the most critical item where we're now in shortage and how do we manage that differently? And so really thinking through. Not just what we already had in place, but how can we empower ourselves to be change agents in a way that would empower our team and also empower leadership and getting their buy-in on, okay, we need to change the way that we do things.
And for us, really managing our talent in a very different way. Not only did we have the shortage of products, but then there were certain non-essential departments that came at a stop still. I recall you mentioning like the elective surgeries where, you know, for us, how we, manage our implantable devices came to a halt.
Similar departments also came to a halt. And so how could supply chain repurpose resources to help us to have more hands-on board where we could also train and equip staff to help us through the process that could think creatively as to how do we change the way we do things? How do we source with suppliers that perhaps we wouldn't want this once consider?
But how do you treat that? And at the same time, if you're in a larger IDN or if you have multiple facilities, how do you then use your data? To look at utilization across the board to help paint that story to say, okay, one site is good and they're in place, but another site is struggling with their PPE, and how do we now aggregate?
How do we take our data to say, how can we pool this and leverage this? For the entire organization. And through that we actually came up with a dedicated product management team that solely managed PPE day in and day out using data, looking at the utilization, looking at the trends, now seeing the volume of patients at the various sites to say, how can we now reallocate our inventory?
To really supply the need where it is and trying to manage the inventory in a way where one site doesn't have too much or too little as we then combat with our suppliers.
Rich: Yeah I didn't get a chance to ask Suzi during the interview portion about data, but you raise a really good point. I mean, obviously something that we use every day here at Kermit. It's the underpinning of everything that we do. Everything has to be informed by empirical information.
When you were at Memorial Sloan Kettering, was it, did you have access to the types of data that you needed right at your fingertips, or was it something you had to go make a request, Hey, we can do our job you're asking us to do, but we're going to need this, and then they had to go kind of build it and produce it for you?
Lisa Hudson-Ventura: Truthfully, I would say it was a little bit of both. And we all know what doesn't get measured doesn't get improved. There's data everywhere, you've got some kind of data, but do you have the right data? And is that data verified? Is it quality data? Is it the data that we need to really paint that story?
And so, depending on, the bandwidth or capacity or even the level of resources that you have at the time, leveraging the data you have in place, could be sufficient. And for me it was a great starting place. But as we continue to improve and even through the pandemic, we now needed to create our own data or make that data more meaningful, where we then had to then take our informatics or IT resources to say, now we need to start building queries to start looking at things in more real time.
So, it's really starting with what you have and then building on that foundational layer. But it really takes a mixture of both. But at minimum, you should always leverage data as a baseline, wherever you want to start something.
Rich: Yeah. Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing your feedback about what you heard Suzi Collins talk about, and also just the rich experience that you bring to us here at Kermit.
From everything you saw prior to that, we were fortunate to grab you and pull you away from your desk for just a few minutes to be on the show today. So, thanks so much for being here.
Lisa Hudson-Ventura: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Rich.
Rich: Yeah, it's my pleasure. So that's it. That concludes this episode of The Healing the Hospital podcast.
I want to thank. Both Lisa and also Suzi Collins for being this episode's Hospital Healer. Be sure to follow her to get the latest content on LinkedIn and TikTok. And remember, Suzi's social handles are in the show notes here below. To stay up to date with everything that is The Healing The Hospital podcast. Follow us on LinkedIn and YouTube.
These links and more are also in the show notes. We want to bring the stories of Hospital Healers changing things for the better. So, if you would like to nominate a Hospital Healer to be featured in a future episode, visit kermitppi.com/healingthehospital and submit the contact form.
And if you're enjoying The Healing The Hospital podcast, be sure to subscribe so that you never miss an episode. And please leave a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcast. Thank you for spending part of your day with us and for listening to this episode of The Healing the Hospital podcast.
I've been your host, Rich Palarea, and I'll see you next time.
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