Physicians play a key role in the supply chain at Novant Health

Novant Health physicians play a formal role in the supply chain to reduce clinical variation and manage the adoption of new products.

Physicians play formal and informal roles in the supply chain at Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Novant Health.

Formal roles for physicians in the supply chain include working on value analysis teams and participating in quality assurance processes. Informal supply chain physician roles include notifying supply chain departments when products are out of stock and when there are problems with products.

At Novant, physicians work in two formal supply chain groups, says John Mann, MD, senior vice president of Novant Health Institutes and president and chief operating officer of Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center in Clemmons, North Carolina.

“We have a team to reduce clinical variation. CVRT was established in 2012. It’s a group that includes the supply chain team combined with physicians who represent most of our institutes—the clinical side of the organization, including some of our chief clinical officers. Together we partner with the procurement around recurring contracts for products we use in our emergency hospitals. This covers a wide variety of specialties including orthopedics, vascular, cardiac, neurology – any specialty that uses a product in our hospitals can be involved in clinical variations he says.

Physicians who work on CVRTs provide clinical data and clinical guidance that is helpful when negotiating with providers, Mann says. “We found that connection brings more power to the conversation. Historically, providers have used physician relationships to influence hospital administration. We turned things against them. Our procurement team partners with physicians, and they go to the vendor and say, This is what physicians want for their patients. This is what we need for Novant Health. We’ve reversed the dynamic so vendors can’t undermine the health system’s efforts to drive value and savings for our patients.”

The health system also has a formal supply chain group that includes physicians to manage the adoption of new products, he says. “If a physician wants a new product, whether it’s clinically superior, leads to better outcomes, or leads to a competitive advantage, those decisions are made collaboratively between physicians and the procurement team, so we’re leading the conversation with suppliers.” involved ensures we keep the patient front and center in all our conversations and disarms providers. When suppliers approach our procurement team, they may say, ‘A doctor wants this product.’ But we will make that decision ourselves and drive value to the health system and our patients.”

Physicians are involved in the supply chain outside of official roles

Building relationships between supply chain personnel and physicians has educated the supply team, says Mark Welch, MHA, senior vice president of supply chain at Novant.

“The relationship between the supply chain team and physicians has evolved over the years. When we first started, we focused on clinical variation to understand why we have clinical variation. What we’ve found is that having a connection between the supply chain and the doctors to talk about these things is more valuable than just looking at variations. sourcing a lot of things for different procedures that we probably would never have known if we hadn’t made the connection,” he says.

Both new physicians and physician leaders play informal roles in Novant’s supply chain, Welch says. “When we recruit new physicians, part of the recruiting process is that our physician leaders talk about supply chain and how we approach supply chain along with expectations for physician involvement. In our institutes and service lines such as neurology, orthopedics, vascular and surgical services, leaders participate in procurement from Day 1 when they join. We let them know where our contracts are, we listen to any concerns they might have, and a lot of times they present a different perspective.”

Novant doctors are often involved in influencing supply chain decisions, Mann says. “If we have a product that’s on a three-year cycle and it’s about to be renewed, we’re going to engage with a lot of doctors to get their input. We want to know their experience with the product over the past three years. We may need to see the change. It can be challenging to engage with dozens of physicians across the organization, but we’ve found that the time investment gives us a better result at the end of the process.”

Certain qualities help doctors play formal or informal roles in the supply chain, Welch says. “They have to have curiosity. They must be innovative. They should be people who want to learn the business side of healthcare. Doctors are curious about many things, and as they get deeper into their careers, they become interested in where the money goes and where the money comes from. Health care is complicated, but most doctors are intrigued by how it works.”

Christopher Chaney is the senior editor for clinical care at HealthLeaders.

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