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With the current climate in Washington regarding the healthcare debate, inevitable changes in the U.S. system will affect every department across all healthcare organizations, including supply chain management. Although the final result may not shake out for a year or more, proactive supply chain and procurement management professionals in the field can meet future challenges head on and weather the coming storm by focusing on a few key areas.

1. Everyone's Your Customer

Cultivate a new attitude of service within your healthcare supply chain. Every assistant and manager, and yes, the CEO, serves one another just as much as they serve customers, clients, and vendors. Make “everyone’s a customer” the new mantra.

What’s the most vital skill when dealing with customers? LISTEN! Take time to allow employees at all levels to make suggestions that will result in small and large improvements across every link in the supply chain. Foster an interactive, online process that allows employees to contribute to a digital “idea bank” (using collaborative software such as shared versions of Evernote, OneNote, or Basecamp). Take time to meet with the team and review ideas — no judgment, just careful consideration.

2. View From Above

Using new breakthroughs in cloud computing and big data, healthcare supply chain managers can get a 360-degree view of the entire end-to-end process that has never been available. Put the right tech tools in the right hands and choose software solutions that work for every team member. Make sure tech training on new systems is a top priority across the board.

3. Cut Costs, Save Trees

For many healthcare organizations (especially in procurement management), office supplies can be a budget line that quickly spirals out of control — especially when it comes to using ream after ream of paper. Finding paperless solutions — such as shared cloud folders, scanning older paper files, simplified e-mail channels, and the use of PDF forms, procurement departments can slash thousands of dollars in paper, manila folders, paper clips, and etc. within the space of a few months.

While paperless solutions such as tablet PCs and scanners may seem like a larger capital investment initially, these types of technology will ultimately justify the cost over time and lead to greater efficiencies and more effective connection across your department.

Given the chaotic environment in healthcare politics, we can’t predict with any accuracy how new legislation will impact procurement management in the short term or long term. What we can do is focus on constant improvement, team building, technological advances, and cost savings to build a resilient supply chain process that can embrace and adapt to what will surely be a season of turbulent change in the healthcare industry.

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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