By Erin Cristales, Vizient
As Bryan Grossman prepared to take the stage at last year's Vizient Supplier Forum, the moment was, in many ways, a decade in the making.
Not the event itself, though the annual gathering does require plenty of preparation with hundreds of suppliers in attendance to hear the latest and greatest tips and trends from Vizient's many industry experts. No, for Grossman — senior vice president of strategic supplier performance and category management — the importance of the occasion resided squarely in the message.
Since he joined Vizient 10 years before, Grossman set his sights on helping to create a healthier dynamic between providers and suppliers. Like all things worth doing, the goal was neither quick nor easy. But now he was ready to publicly unveil Vizient's bigger, better — and most crucially, more collaborative — supplier strategy.
This is not net new for Vizient, Grossman told the crowd. But what is new is the focus on elevating the value proposition to suppliers and bringing that forth in a more consistent way. We have invested in a team that is dedicated to optimizing supplier performance — they wake up every day thinking about how we can drive a greater exchange of value between suppliers and providers.
"To be on that stage," Grossman said, "and articulate our commitment to improve supplier value, and how that translates to provider value, was incredibly exciting."
In the year since he made the announcement, Vizient's supplier performance strategy has only expanded and evolved. Historically, supplier partnerships were primarily based on sourcing contracts — now they're about deeper collaborations that leverage data, analytics and market insights to drive a more proactive approach to value positioning.
"Vizient is uniquely capable of being a trusted advisor to suppliers based on our intimate understanding of provider needs," Grossman said. "This gives us the ability to work further upstream with our supplier partners to cultivate the right value proposition at the right time, which ultimately leads to a better and more sustainable outcome for all parties."
After all, it's a whole new, and increasingly challenging, world in healthcare. Why wouldn't all stakeholders come together to work smarter, not harder?
"This is an opportunity not just for Vizient but for the industry as a whole to make some real changes around how we enable better healthcare for all," Grossman said. "We can't keep doing it the same way. All of us have to change. So, we're working with suppliers and providers to build a better future, together."
The beginning of the shift
In 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on health systems, Vizient doubled down on its mission to improve healthcare performance through data, access and advocacy. With the healthcare supply chain in particular disarray, it was clear that suppliers were a critical piece of the improvement equation.
Enter Simrit Sandhu, who in March of that year joined Vizient as executive vice president, strategic transformation and clinical-supply solutions. Sandhu was tasked with leading the implementation of Vizient's overall strategic plan and its supply chain businesses in areas spanning medical-surgical, clinical preference, capital, purchased services and supply chain operations. She knew interactions with suppliers tended toward the episodic — the only way to truly enhance the healthcare ecosystem was to convene deeper, more meaningful relationships between providers and suppliers by drawing on Vizient's data, technology and subject matter expertise.
As part of that goal, the formation of a new supplier performance team was officially announced in early 2022, which was led by Grossman and included Kevin Galyean, vice president, strategic supplier performance, and Amy Brouhle, national vice president, supplier strategy and business development. To help suppliers tap into the full breadth of Vizient's capabilities, the team established three specific areas of focus: aligning data, analytics and insights to optimize performance; advancing sustainable partnerships; and providing unique and differentiated connectivity — which is particularly important in high-needs areas like health equity and workforce.
"If you look at both the cost and availability of labor, that's a major issue that continues to impact the healthcare industry," Galyean said. "Not only are providers looking closely at supply availability but also areas like training and education for staff. Suppliers can fill that void and provide education that allows clinicians to spend more time providing skilled care and limits the burden on their time or limited resources."
The symbiosis of those relationships, Grossman said, is exactly what can take the industry to the next level. Helping suppliers redefine value through the lens of total cost of care and ownership, as well as highlight and differentiate themselves through a broader value proposition, boosts the ability to meet providers' growing needs beyond just cost of product or service — and optimizes patient care in the process.
"What's important is to continually talk about the vision of where we're going because everyone needs that north star and that clarity," he said. "And then it makes it easier every day to chip away at how we ultimately get there."
Spreading the word
As it happens, much of 2022 was about defining the path forward, both within and outside of Vizient. Grossman and team evangelized the message of sustainable collaborations at events including Vizient's Supplier Orientations, Supplier Forum and Vizient Connections Summit, which saw near-record numbers of supplier attendees. At IDN Fall Summit — which brings together senior healthcare supply chain and pharmacy executives to source innovative solutions from leading suppliers and GPOs — Grossman shared his expertise as part of a panel titled "Long-term Impact of the COVID Pandemic on Provider/Supplier Relationships."
"Suppliers' expectations of the GPO are really important, particularly as Vizient has evolved the work we do with providers around total cost of care and total cost of ownership," Grossman said during the panel. "It's allowed us to provide access and connectivity more efficiently to a wider set of stakeholders."
To build on that goal internally, in fall 2022 the team solidified an enterprise-wide Supplier Engagement Model that brings together all parts of the organization to drive a more consistent, strategy-led approach. The strategy focuses on four areas to enhance supplier value proposition and generate provider value including advisory services; analytics and technology; market access and value positioning; and market insights and thought leadership. It also involves the centralization of contracting activities to drive consistency and efficiency across all aspects of the process, including the establishment of category and contract managers.
"It's been amazing to see everybody across the organization rally around this enterprise strategy with our suppliers," Grossman said. "Obviously, this work will continue to iterate and mature, but to see the teams come together gives me a lot of optimism moving forward."
Additionally, Grossman's leadership team has grown with the additions of Deb Roy, principal; Beth Graefe, SVP, supplier performance and consulting; Rachel Martin, associate principal; and Karl Karlsson, vice president of life sciences and industry for Vizient subsidiary Sg2.
"I think what's unique about our approach is that we are a provider-driven organization that does strategy rather than a strategy firm that does healthcare," Karlsson said. "And then there's the talent of our team. We have folks who have worked in health systems or have been on the supplier side who can guide and drive value for our customers so that they understand their business objectives."
The team, Martin said, has attracted interest and attention from across the organization.
"Much of my Vizient career has been working in healthcare supply chain, developing new solutions and solving for the unmet needs of providers. The industry has always recognized a gap between suppliers and providers but has been passive in making any real change," she said. "When Vizient committed to investing in this work and establishing this team, I knew it was where I wanted to be. I can't think of anything more rewarding than the possibilities of solving challenges across our supplier partners and providers, together. The opportunity to make a real impact on the industry at large is more than exciting — it means creating value for everyone involved."
Vizient's 2023 Supplier Forum is set for April 25-26, and much like last year, Grossman can't wait to take the stage. This time, though, the anticipation is different. A year ago, it was about delivering a message. Now, it's about delivering results.
"This is an opportunity for us to say, 'Hey, we saw you last year — that wasn't just a PowerPoint presentation. We're serious about this,'" Grossman said. "This year, we can show the evolution that we're making and how deeply ingrained this approach is in our corporate strategy."
At the end of the day, he said, that strategy is grounded in Vizient's ability to showcase how building better relationships with suppliers can bring tangible value back to health systems beyond just the contract and the price.
"Using this approach to help health systems deliver cost-effective, high-quality care that maximizes the patient experience — that, to me, is what success is," Grossman said. "It's about our ability to be a catalyst in the marketplace to drive value to health systems by working with suppliers differently. That's the mission we're on."