by Jeffrey F. Solarek
Senior Consultant, Supply Chain Operations Services

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve at our nation’s hospitals, we are finding that many health care organizations are having to make critical, far-reaching changes to products and suppliers in order to meet rapidly changing patient and clinical demands. While changing products and suppliers quickly enables providers to keep their patients and front-line health care workers protected, it can also cause anxiety for everyone in the hospital charged with implementing and supporting the change.

So how can we be certain these fast-paced product and supplier changes are rolled out effectively? I have found that clear communication to all affected groups and end users helps ensure the required changes are made in a more seamless, productive and non-disruptive manner. What’s needed is a concise, well-written and broadly communicated education document. Here is how to create one and what needs to be in it:

Start from the beginning

Make sure an education document is included in your change implementation planning from the onset. It is helpful to put one person in charge of compiling, publishing, and communicating this document to ensure it is complete and cohesive.

Engage the Supplier

Ask the supplier to help write the education document. Who knows better than the supplier about their products and procedures? They may also be able to advise you about what has worked (or not worked) in other product change initiatives they have been involved in. Require the supplier to send specifications associated with the product, such as EPA-, FDA- or OSHA-approved documentation.

What to include

An education document should answer the following questions in an easy, accessible format:

  • WHY — Provide a brief overview of the reason for the change. Identify the expected outcomes of the sourcing and contracting initiative and explain the importance of this change to your hospital’s end users (patients and clinicians).
  • WHO — Who will be impacted by the initiative or change? For instance, a new supplier for N95s won’t just impact the clinicians who wear them, but also infection control staff, who must know what to expect from a new supplier or item.
  • WHAT — Highlight the key benefits and important details related to the new initiative. The supplier can and should provide you with a great deal of this information. Some things to consider including in this document are:
  • Supplier information
    • Supplier’s value proposition, mission and vision
    • Service hours and contact numbers
    • After-hours phone numbers and process
    • Services offered and any limits
    • Value-added services
    • Savings and benefits achieved
    • Invoicing and accounts receivable process
    • Reports and any available analysis
    • Fit testing information (if applicable)
    • Estimated delivery time
  • Visuals such as flow charts that highlight changes
  • Contract information
  • WHEN – Explain when the change will take effect. For instance, some changes occur over a span of time, some occur at once, some, such as a technology change, might happen at 2 a.m. so as not to disrupt too many processes. Be specific so employees are not surprised at launch.
  • WHERE TO FIND HELP– Include contact names, cell phone numbers, emails of the supplier contact as well as the organization’s supply chain contact.


Business unit leaders affected by changes should review the document before it’s finalized to ensure organization-wide buy in. Cast a wide net when communicating as sometimes unexpected departments, such as IT, need to be made aware of the change.


Communicating the education document helps spread and sustain awareness. The use of all channels and repetition will help. You may want to consider some of the following ideas:

  • Post the document on the supply chain hospital intranet for easy access. This allows clinicians a quick reference for item descriptions, cost and saving ideas.
  • Share it through email.
  • Summarize the information on a one-page printed document, then distribute it in work areas and on tabletops.
  • Post it on management forums and refer to it in presentations.
  • Remind people where the document lives. Consider including the education document in monthly newsletters, making it a regular part of monthly staff meetings and providing updates at hospital management forums.

By deploying an education document as part of your supply chain change initiative, you can dramatically boost efficiency and performance, allowing you to keep the focus on front-line health care workers and their patients.

About the author. As senior consultant, Jeff Solarek provides guidance, mentoring and leadership to member organizations to help transform their supply chain operations to leading-practice performance levels. With more than 30 years of supply chain experience in technology, steel, electronics and health care, Solarek has garnered eight supply chain certifications: CPSM, APP and CPM from the Institute of Supply Chain Management; CPCM from the National Contract Management Association; CPIM and CIRM from the American Production and Inventory Control Society; and CMRP, along with a fellowship (FAHRMM) from the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management.

Published: October 23, 2020