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How Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is Developing a More Resilient Supply Chain and Protecting Patient Care

Key takeaways:

  • Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare recognized the vital need to strengthen its supply chain and protect against ongoing product shortages.
  • Key elements in the health system’s approach include actionable data and intelligence, real-time collaboration and strong support from Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team.
  • The health system partnered with Premier supply chain and clinical experts to help resolve six significant product shortages for the continued delivery of high-quality patient care.

For more on this topic:

  • Read our blog for updates on the state of healthcare supply chain disruptions in 2024.
  • Check out this report to learn how your organization can future-proof its supply chain and stay ahead of disruptions.
  • Download your copy of Premier’s 2023 Resiliency Guide for additional information on strategies to bolster the supply chain.

With six hospitals, multiple outpatient and diagnostic centers, and a growing network of physician practices, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has provided quality healthcare to Memphis and Mid-South residents since 1918.

In March 2023, the health system was looking to enhance its supply chain resiliency and find meaningful solutions to mitigate pervasive product shortages that continue to impact healthcare providers and patients across the nation.

Working with Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare resolved six different product shortages for its health system in less than a year – helping to ensure cost-effective, uninterrupted, high-quality patient care.

Premier spoke to Rusty Parker, Senior Director of Supply Chain Management at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, to learn more about how the health system is protecting and enhancing its supply chain for the benefit of clinicians, patients and the communities it serves.

The following is a summary from an interview between Premier and Rusty Parker.

The Challenge

Healthcare providers, including our team here Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, have been battling ongoing supply disruptions, backorders and product shortages since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These shortages have also arguably become more challenging to manage. We’re seeing an unpredictable set of new products/categories every month – and many are staple products that are vital to everyday patient care.

Managing product availability concerns is time consuming, a major burden on our team and affects providers’ ability to provide essential products and services to patients. The repercussions of disruptions can vary from delayed deliveries of crucial medical supplies to increased costs and compromised patient care.

Given these realities, the call to action for risk mitigation, preparedness and strengthening the healthcare supply chain is abundantly clear.

The Opportunity

We see the supply chain as essential to enterprise-wide operations at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, and we’re not a team throwing out issues for others to fix.

If/when we get wind of product shortages or access challenges, we work to thoroughly vet them and explore alternatives. And we’re constantly asking ourselves – how can we provide even greater value to our organization and those we serve?

Prior to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare becoming a Premier group purchasing organization (GPO) member in March of 2023, the burden to tackle product backorders and shortages was largely ours alone to bear. We needed to find speed-to-value solutions and dedicated support centered on our mission.

Shortly after our GPO transition, we were introduced to Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team inclusive of clinicians, supply chain experts, portfolio advisors, data analysts and Premier members who work to identify and support categories and products that require additional supply chain risk and resiliency measures.

The Solution

Leveraging actionable data and strong supplier relationships, Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team supports contingency planning, provides advance warning of potential shortages and connects providers to critical resources that can help ensure care continuity.

Working with this team, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare resolved six different product shortages for our health system in less than a year. Here are some examples:

1. For two+ years, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare was dealing with shortages in the fetal scalp electrodes category – a critical device to monitor a fetus’ heart rate and well-being. Prior to Premier’s support, we believed our only option was to try to mitigate the risk as best we can and understand there will be rolling backorders. But Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team helped us identify an alternative supplier and clinically acceptable product. In less than five business days, we had product samples on-site and in our clinicians’ hands.

2. It was the Friday before Christmas at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, and we were experiencing a shortage of blood administration tubing for pediatric cardiac patients. We immediately engaged Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team – and by the end of that day – the team had connected with an alternative supplier. The next day, we had clinically appropriate product in hand and were able to get through the holiday without sacrifice to patient care.

3. We were notified by our distributor of rolling backorders affecting the availability of a patient warming device vital to positive outcomes and perioperative hypothermia prevention. I reached out to Premier’s Disaster Preparedness and Response team who helped us quickly identify an alternative supplier with a compatible product that met our needs. The Premier team supported new product evaluation from a value analysis lens – looking comprehensively at cost, quality, safety outcomes and resiliency measures.

With overwhelmingly positive product trial feedback from our clinical team, we undertook a system-wide effort to standardize, which led to cost savings and improved clinician satisfaction. And most important, we had the high-quality product necessary to treat our patients.

In every one of these situations and others, the Premier team engaged with us and with suppliers, established clear and open lines of real-time communication – and brought forward data and intelligence on best practices, product alternatives, potential get-well timelines and strategies to help mitigate or prevent clinical disruption.

They have helped my Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare team reduce the time to manage supply stock issues, reduce costs due to changing alternatives and prevent canceled procedures due to inadequate supplies.

What Advice Would You Give to Other Hospitals?

Supply chain resilience has emerged as a critical factor for providers to help ensure continuity in delivering quality care. Patients are at the center of all of this.

Find a true, solutions-oriented partner who works in service to this shared mission – with a pulse on the latest market conditions, responsiveness and dedicated support, and strong results.

Typically, and in my previous experience, I’ve not seen a GPO take a leading role on enhancing industry-wide supply chain resiliency, supporting risk mitigation and helping to resolve product shortages. The Disaster Preparedness and Response function is a tremendous strength and differentiator for Premier and its GPO that’s adding significant value for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Premier is helping to resolve critical challenges for us and other healthcare providers across the nation – and rectifying shortages so that clinicians can get the much-needed supplies to best care for patients.

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