The Healthcare Hub

Automate or Delegate? Digitizing Your Strategy for Supply Chain Data Management

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Removing inaccuracies and inefficiencies from data can help healthcare proactively address inevitable disruptions, pivot faster and build stronger supplier relationships. The result is a more resilient supply chain that helps to drive better patient outcomes and cost savings. But with constant changes and multiple data sources, keeping item data clean is arduous.

Fortunately, supply chain teams can now turn to new capabilities in their cloud ERPs to synchronize data cleansing, correct errors, and fill gaps. This includes all item data (e.g., item masters, P.O. history and contract data) that multiple teams depend on.

During a recent webinar, GHX’s Pete Nelson and Keith Lohkamp, Senior Director, Healthcare Industry Strategy at Workday, discussed how and why automation has evolved to accelerate the transformation to cloud-based, digital supply chain management. They were joined by Prisma Health Director of Supply Chain Information Systems Leslie Thomas, who described the bold steps that her organization took to integrate a cloud-based data management solution and service that keeps their supply chain data current and synchronized.

A New Focus on Resilience

With hospitals facing between $53 billion and $122 billion in losses due to lingering effects of COVID-19 and pressure to accelerate digital transformation, a better solution is needed. GHX and Workday’s efforts on behalf of Prisma Health prove it’s possible. In the process, the two firms gained a unique perspective on the issue.

For example, many healthcare providers have told Lohkamp that they’ve begun refocusing on a few specific areas, including more direct sourcing — i.e., finding alternative products and negotiating directly with suppliers.

“There’s a lot of focus on supplier risks and diversifying the supply base to support those direct sourcing initiatives and provide more resiliency within the supply chain,” he said. “A focus on great supplier relationships and on being able to share more information with those suppliers is making healthcare systems better able to respond to the inevitable disruptions in the supply chain.”

This reprioritization emphasizes the need for all users of item information within a system to operate from a clean foundation of data. This will help health systems to understand what's going to be needed and to use foundational data and time saved with ERP synchronization to collaborate in new ways. There’s also an emphasis on securing the right talent to maximize the effectiveness of these tools, he said.

Why Cloud-Based Technology?

According to Nelson, much has changed in the two decades since GHX first started helping health systems digitize information (orders, invoices) to save money and reduce errors. And the last two years have accelerated that change.

“One thing we can agree on is that the 15- and 20-year-old technologies that have been driving on-premise solutions were significantly taxed and challenged during the pandemic. Not only the technology but the processes and data that supported it,” he said. “It was no longer delivering what was needed. If you start off with a weak foundation for your data, it's going to wind up complicating everything downstream.

The healthcare community is increasingly placing demands on both supply chain teams and suppliers to provide robust item data and supply information.

“The ultimate goal, and the scenario that will take digitization to a whole new level, is to provide a truly seamless, error-free experience for every system and supplier at every point in the supply chain,” Nelson said. “As we move toward a more complex scenario value-based care, we continue to see a broader demand for item-based data across the entire continuum.”

He said this will require capabilities like being able to syndicate data and information out of different systems (cycled systems, electronic medical record systems) and integrate with a focus on proper outcome tracking for every procedure, information that will be critical for health systems moving forward.

“When you look at HR payroll, finance GL, and then supply chain, item data becomes the lifeblood that feeds not only the order cycle but also downstream systems,” he said. “That means clean, ready-to-go, always up-to-date data is now table stakes for systems going forward. We're in a different time from a technology point of view, and seamlessly integrated cloud-based systems are the step change.”

Prisma Health: Resiliency Built on a Foundation of Good Data

Prisma Health, the largest health system in South Carolina, recently needed to merge two regional systems into one combined cloud-based ERP. Thomas and her team worked directly with GHX and Workday to implement the system.

“We went live with Workday in August of last year, so of course, it had to be completely virtual, with nobody on-site during the pandemic,” Thomas said. “And we weren’t just going live on a new system, we were merging all of our data into one cloud-based dataset, two separate systems into one item master, vendor master contract, and on top of that, combining all of our processes and procedures into one. So there was a lot of change management required.”

The Prisma Health project went live within 30 days, a fraction of the time typically required for similar integrations. Thomas said the new system is helping Prisma reduce its costs for manual interventions on item data by approximately 80%.

The industry is taking notice of the sea change Prisma has achieved in its supply chain management technology: In recognition of its data strategy, the system was recently awarded ECRI’s annual healthcare supply chain achievement award for 2021 and was a finalist for the prestigious Constellation Research 2021 SuperNova Award for technology optimization and modernization.