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Partnering to solve healthcare challenges through supply chain optimization — an interview with Bryan Gilpin

Bryan Gilpin, Director of Supply Chain Solutions

Our supply chain optimization programs offer a strategic approach and include a range of services to help healthcare providers improve operational efficiencies and implement cost-saving measures. 

Q. What are some of the changes you are seeing in the health care provider supply chain?

Managing costs isn’t new, but as providers prepare to operate in a changing health care environment, they’ve been working to better understand those costs. At the same time, they have been looking for ways to reduce spending without impacting patient care, and in many cases make improvements to managing a patient’s care and overall experience.

The Affordable Care Act has been a driving force in providers wanting more from their suppliers and device manufacturers are an important part of the equation. Providers are looking for suppliers that are willing to work with them — to be true collaborators — to develop solutions that can help them deliver the best quality care at the lowest possible cost. 

Q. How is Boston Scientific responding to these changes?

We’ve been working for a long time to help our customers manage aspects of their supply chain. So we had a pretty good idea of the kinds of things our customers wanted help with but we knew we had to start by listening and understanding their real pain points.

Having too much inventory, spending too much time managing inventory, chasing orders, not having enough lab or shelf space — these are issues shared by many of our customers. In order to address these needs, we formalized some of our services, offering structured programs. In a relatively short time, we’ve seen good results with programs such as inventory optimization, order consolidation and vendor-managed inventory. 

Healthcare provider in a supply room.

Q. Has the role of the supply chain manager changed?

We believe so. We see managers in this area taking a more holistic approach to managing costs. For those with supply chain responsibilities, device cost is always a concern, but there’s more to it. These managers are shifting their focus to achieve cost savings through efficiencies — in ordering, delivery, inventory and overall simplification of their supply management.

In addition, supply chain managers want to provide service and value to their internal customers, which means coming up with solutions that allow clinicians to spend less time on things like inventory and more time focused on patient care.

Q. What’s been the biggest challenge in implementing supply chain improvement programs?

Change can be difficult for any organization. One customer that we’ve been working with to reduce inventory has made significant progress. Before the work, the lab was crowded and product was stacked high. It could be difficult to find something or to know how much they actually had on hand — not uncommon for any lab.

Now there are fewer devices on the shelf so it’s easy to see what you have which, in turn, means spending less time managing product and more time to plan. Sounds good, but initially people were uncomfortable with the fact that they didn’t have a lot of product around. It took time for them to see how it worked and how the new way of doing things could benefit them. It’s really a culture shift so it’s important to recognize that people embracing new ways of doing things is an important part of the process.

To date, we’ve had positive feedback from customers, yet we think we’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to the types of things that can help drive efficiencies and add value.

Q. Why should hospitals work with Boston Scientific to improve their supply chain?

The supplier-provider relationship has changed in health care. Hospitals are defining value in new ways and they want more of it. We’re very much in line with this because we’ve been providing supporting services for a long time. We’ve never been about just taking orders and delivering product. And now, we’ve taken it to the next level.

Importantly, we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Some customers simply want help assessing their situation but they have resources to implement a solution. Others want help in addressing specific areas such as order consolidation. For multi-center hospitals with a main point of distribution, order consolidation can be an area with great potential for efficiency and cost savings.

Boston Scientific’s interests are aligned with the provider’s interests in that we are both vested in the lab’s success. Different from external consultants, we don’t leave when the project is done. We have been and we are in the relationship for the long term.