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

Today more than ever managing change is an inherent part of a supply chain leader’s role. Backorders, substitutions and supplier changes have become almost daily events. While some of these changes may be transparent to end-users, such as changing an office supply, others, such as a critical patient care item, may involve shifting processes and procedures that affect multiple departments across the hospital. In my experience, the latter requires clear communication to all affected groups and end-users to successfully implement wide-reaching supply chain changes.

A concise, broadly communicated education document outlining the necessary changes and offering high-level change information will go a long way to ensure adjustments are made in the most seamless, non-disruptive way possible.

Here are four basic steps to creating an education document.

Start from the beginning                                                                                  

Ensure an education document is included in your change implementation planning from the start. Assign one person the task of compiling, publishing and communicating the document to make sure it is complete and cohesive. Engage business unit leaders affected by changes during the creation and review of the document to ensure organization-wide buy-in. It’s better to err on the side of too many “reviewers” as sometimes unexpected departments, such as IT, need to be aware of the change.

For example, you’ve decided you need to change masks. You likely have worked with value analysis, infection control and other departments to evaluate the need for this change. It’s important to keep them involved in the actual implementation of the new masks. There also may be additional stakeholders that are important to include, too. For example, environmental services.

Fully engage all appropriate groups in the development of the education document. Everyone on the team has a role by providing insights on masks.

Identify one individual (team lead) to oversee compiling, publishing and communicating the education document.

Engage the supplier

Ask the supplier to contribute to the education document. Who else 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 initiatives they have been involved in. Require the supplier send specifications associated with the product, such as EPA-, FDA- or OSHA-approved documentation. Clinicians from the value analysis teams can assist and vet supplier documentation.

Items to include

Here are some examples of information that I have found to be extremely helpful to include in an education document.

  • Who – Include an overview of who will be impacted by the initiative. For instance, a new supplier for masks or gloves 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 changes brought about by the new initiative. The supplier should provide you with a great deal of this information. Here of some examples of information that is useful to include:
    • Supplier information
      • Service hours and contact numbers
      • After-hours phone numbers and process
      • Services offered and any limits
      • Value-added services
      • 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 that can be found on the Vizient contract catalog
  • When – Explain when the change will take effect. This is important because some changes occur all at once, and some occur over a period. Be specific so no one is surprised when conversions occur.
  • 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 (customers).

Share the education document

Communicating about the education document helps spread and sustain awareness. The use of multiple 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 use it in presentations. Remind people where the document lives, so consider including education documents in monthly newsletters, making them a regular part of monthly staff meetings and providing updates at hospital management forums.

An education document is a simple, but impactful way to communicate details of supply chain-initiated changes. It communicates to and engages all areas in the hospital affected by changes, and it helps answer end-user questions before, during and after a change is implemented, thus allowing you to keep the focus on front-line health care workers and their patients.

About the author. In his role 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 35 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: December 21, 2021