Looking Back, Then Into the Future- ACE Summit Style

The recent ACE Summit, held virtually, gave us some insights on what to look forward top in several areas including:

  • Capital budgeting and projects
  • Space planning, Telehealth and Consumer-Driven Health
  • Warehouse management
  • Competition from new sources.

Let’s take a look:

Capital Budgeting and Projects: The COVD pandemic threw a huge curve ball (or a monkey wrench) several projects that were either planned or under way. Some projects were halted, some continued and others were replaced by emergent needs. Mike Gerhart of Intalere reported that at Intermountain Health, new builds continued, while only Priority One routine capital projects continued. Gerhart also reported that Intalere members with projects related to long term care and surgi-centers generally brought those project to a halt in 2020 and that in many systems, unspent capital dollars would roll forward to 2021 with the understanding that they may have to go back into the approval process and compete for dollars with other projects.

Keith Allen of LifePoint said that many short term future revisions associated with room air pressures and other COVID issues such as how to plan for a tremendous spike in demand commanded the spotlight at the outset of the pandemic. Eventually, after those initial challenges were surmounted, and after the funds required for minor capital such as ventilators were found, the focus slowly began to return to projects that had already been in the pipeline.

Gerhart and Allen look for 2021 to be a year of correction, followed by the ability to “see the light” in 2022. A close look will be given to previously approved projects as well as to emerging point of care strategies. Some projects will be replaced by ones that hadn’t even been considered prior to 2020.

Space Planning: The pandemic has had a great effect on future space planning including (1) the types of builds that will emerge, (2) the space requirements for traditional spaces such as waiting areas and the amount of real estate needed for the on-site work force and (3) storage requirements for contingent supplies and equipment.

A term that was addressed in one of the panel discussions was Consumer-Driven Health. It relates to the idea of building sites in suburban areas where care formerly given at acute care facilities can be rendered in a more convenient fashion. Similarly, the massive rise in the use of Telehealth has mitigated and altered the demands for spaces in clinics where people would formerly be herded into waiting rooms, wait, then go to exam rooms, undress and wait again. Telehealth has made that formerly onerous process much better for the patient. Patients like it and want to see more of it.

Lee Health in Florida took the future of care a step further with the design and build of the new Lee Healthy Life Center. It was built in an affluent area of Lee County. It contains a spectrum of services that were agreed upon by a cooperative process in which stakeholders had input into both the services to be rendered and the design of the facility. The center is described as a “retail healthy life center” in which community education, gatherings, exercise and walk paths are present, as well as retail sites.  In the words of Dave Kistel pf Lee Health, “It will be hard the train that is running away from acute care. We think the “Whole Person Care Model” will affect all demographics.

Warehouse (and Supply) Management: Oh the surface, this category might be responded to with a giant, “DUH!” I mean, it’s a given that the pandemic blew inventory management out of the water as over 5,000 hospitals scrambled frantically to get everything they could before the world ran out. But it’s not that simple. Dennis Mullins of Indiana University Health and Clinton Hazziez of UNC Health shared their experiences and predictions. Mullins, whose organization had a pandemic plan in place, found itself suddenly having to serve over 500 non-acute care settings in addition to its normal work. According to Mullins, IU had to “get creative, identify wierdos in the new market and not deal with them.” He also said that, while IU was never really threatened to being out of needed supplies, the system did, nonetheless, find itself the recipient of key PPE from government and other sources. The system, he said, set those “Just In Case” supplies aside and gave them back. Hazziez said UNC engaged with state and local governments to formulate supply strategies that helped them get through the challenges and that their team manage to “stay ahead of the curve.”

Mullins made the interesting observation that there is no national healthcare supply chain. The difficulty at the outset of the pandemic, he said, was that everybody was on his own. An Air Force veteran. Mullins said that in the future, the country needs to tap into the expertise in the military. Hazziez agreed and both cited the incredible level of standardization present within the military.

On pain points, both cited the need for transparency and good, timely data- both for meeting and predicting demand as well as for being able to convince clinicians to make needed changes or alterations in pre-COVID procedures or products.

As for the future, both agreed that they needed to be able to understand and be able to measure how well their Distribution Centers are servicing their partners. They need to look at future partners and work with them using the resilience they have incorporated into their mode of operations during the pandemic. They also said that the value of effective data has never been more important than now- both for predicting demand and for choosing partners.

Competition From New Sources: Dave Kistel of Lee Health and Laura Stillman of Flad Architects reported on new and emerging providers including:

  • In 2020, Walgreens announced it was going to open 500-700 “Dr. Stores” in the next five years. It plans on becoming a neighborhood health destination and will serve over 30 markets.
  • CVS opened “health hubs” in 2019, with 1500 more planned for 2021. It acquired Aetna and its aim is to totally transform the consumer health experience.
  • The ubiquitous giant is looking to expand its current clinics in a partnership with Crossover Health. In 2020, it debuted the first wearable device to monitor key health indicators and its online pharmacy opened in November 2020.
  • Kaiser Permanente. The California-based pioneer had supported a rise in the use of Telemed prior to the COVID pandemic and, when reimbursement was granted for digital health services, that strategy has only increased. Currently, 50% of ambulatory care visits are now virtual, an 18-time increase over 2019.

The overarching lesson of the ACE Summit is this: COVID has changed and accelerated the rate of change in the way in which healthcare will be delivered- not only in the United States, but in the world at large. The Healthcare supply chain customer will include both system facilities, hospitals, ACS’s, MOBs and patient’s homes.   This will significantly change the supply chain orders and service level expectations.   Is your supply chain ready to compete with Amazon?

Let us help

Over the last 37 years, we at St. Onge have helped countless organizations both within and outside healthcare plan the future of their supply chain operations. Through our design process, we perform an intensive level of due diligence to learn our clients’ needs. Site tours, detailed interviews and data drive the models and simulations we use to develop a thorough understanding of our client’s day-to-day activity from an efficiency perspective. This process validates our understanding of the client’s issues and provides the foundation for developing the relationships required to create innovative solutions.

St. Onge Company has grown steadily and developed a client list that includes many Fortune 500 companies and several world-renowned institutions. We have completed approximately 5,000 assignments for over 1,000 clients located through- out the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, China and South America.

Our past projects cover a wide variety of Institutional, Commercial and Industrial applications for clients such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and King Saud Abdul Aziz Hospital, as well as with their architecture firms. For these clients, we have developed a strong familiarity with the challenging logistics and related real-time issues associated with hospital operations, including campus supply chain strategies, materials management master plans, departmental optimization, facility designs and information systems to plan, direct and coordinate the movement of materials. Some of these solutions are highly automated; all are highly effective.

If you find yourself interested in developing a resilient supply chain operations strategy, please contact St. Onge Company. Our experts stand ready to take a look at your operation and find the opportunities you may have overlooked. You can reach me at fcrans@stonge.com or call me at 563-503-1847.

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