by Nancy Masaschi, MBA
Associate Principal, Clinical Advisory Solutions

As hospitals and health systems continue to redesign their systems of care from ones driven by volume to ones driven by value, I continue to see inspiring examples of how reimagining care delivery is leading to improved quality, health outcomes and patient satisfaction. A growing number of hospitals and health systems are taking the critical step of engaging physicians in evaluating preference items to a new level by establishing a medical director of supply chain. This newly created role is leading to more purposeful and collaborative relationships between physicians and supply chain, strengthening value-based care outcomes with a clearly shared vision with the patient at the center.

By having someone who focuses on the connection between cost and quality and engages physicians early in those discussions, a medical director of supply chain helps bridge the gap that can exist between supply chain and physicians. This creates better alignment with strategic goals and objectives, improves collaboration and shifts physician preference conversations from ones of cost savings to ones that focuses on quality, health outcomes and patient experience.

Improving collaboration and shifting the conversation

By incorporating quality and spend data together with the unique vantage point of also being a physician, a medical director of supply chain is able to facilitate and lead collaborative conversations with physicians and suppliers that focus on improving patient outcomes by reducing variation in clinical practice across the continuum of care.

There are several ways that a medical director of supply chain can play a key role in driving those that strategic initiative by:

  • Having a seat at the table in strategic sourcing category preparation and review discussions, bringing a physician perspective to the roadmap development, prioritization and clinical review
  • Being a part of the organization’s leadership team, aligning supply chain with the clinical and financial strategic goals of the organization, modeling a clinically integrated supply chain focused on improving patient outcomes
  • Leading discussions with other physicians through peer-to-peer review of physician-level data that addresses practice variation and clinical quality
  • Being the change agent by developing the messaging and strategy for key initiatives that bring key stakeholders together to drive change
  • Leading a comprehensive physician engagement program, including the mentoring of clinical leaders, providing education and creating workflows to drive practice transformation

Factors for success

Hospitals and health systems that have developed a medical director of supply chain role will tell you it did not happen overnight. They also will tell you that the documented impact of even early success on quality and health outcome has solidified the value that these roles can bring. This impact is largely driven by a change in the purpose and direction of the discussion within supply chain.

There are several changes that have increased their success:

  • The identification and prioritization of opportunities are physician driven—Align priorities with those that impact clinical metrics and improve overall organizational performance. This changes the direction and approach in the prioritization of opportunities to be more clinical vs. cost focused. This allows for physicians in these roles to have conversations with their peers around removing unnecessary waste from the delivery of patient care, including opportunities to reduce variation in practice in the way they deliver that care. This builds acceptance, ownership and accountability in the physician community.
  • The use of actionable data to drive change in behavior—Data is critical to making informed decisions. It creates transparency and opens the door to look at clinical practice in a way not previously considered in supply chain. Supply chain is accustomed to focusing on spend as it relates cost of products, devices and services. A physician bringing forth and incorporating physician-level data, such as procedure cost, utilization and outcome related data changes the focus of the discussion from one of cost to that of quality and clinical practice. Physicians will be able to see firsthand the variation in the use of devices, diagnostic tests and pharmaceuticals, and the direct impact that it has in the overall cost of care being delivered. It also changes the dialogue to one of sharing of knowledge and best practice to drive improved outcomes.
  • Governance that educates, engages and energizes—Look at how a medical director of supply chain fits into the current governance model and modify it in a way that would enhance support. For example, if your organization is service line-driven, supply chain leaders are often charged by the c-suite and finance department to find cost savings. The medical director of supply chain needs to have the authority to be the change agent and work with physicians in what they do and how they practice, working with service line directors to create a process to implement and sustain it.

There is a great opportunity for meaningful clinical and operational improvements for health care organizations that take engaging physicians in evaluating preference items to a new level by establishing a medical director of supply chain. Those that have done so have an increased success rate with strategic clinical initiatives that contribute to reducing clinical variation and improving patient outcomes as evidenced by better quality scores. The implementation and measurement of key initiatives of medical directors of supply chain are also correlating with increased financial outcomes demonstrated by elevated cost savings, leading to higher margins and profitability overall.

To strengthen value-based care outcomes, consider establishing a medical director of supply chain in your organization.

About the author: As associate principal, Nancy Masaschi leads and delivers clinical consulting services to improve the total value of care while providing the leadership and experience to support organization’s strategic, operational, clinical, quality and utilization goals. Nancy has demonstrated success in developing, implementing and managing multiple clinical practice and product utilization initiatives across service lines and facilitated the development of physician alignment and engagement around clinical variation in practice and clinical outcomes.

Published: February 4, 2021