2018 Provider Seat Candidate

Laura P. Kowalczyk, JD, MPHLaura P. Kowalczyk, JD, MPH
Vice President, Supply Chain and Support Services
UAB Medicine
Birmingham, AL

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Describe why you are a good candidate for this leadership role.

I believe I can bring a breadth of experience and leadership to the Board. My entrance to healthcare was as a lawyer representing hospitals and physicians. Appreciating risk and legal issues provides a perspective and skill that I find invaluable today in my operational and leadership role in a large academic medical center. Although my entrance into the Supply Chain was initially through the legal channel, my love of operations drove me to pursue every opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in this area of the hospital. Through the grace of timing; luck; and incredible support my role has evolved into responsibility for a large operational area of UAB Medicine and UAB Heath System.

The leadership qualities that have fostered this growth are deeply grounded in my commitment to team collaboration and emotional intelligence. Although I am an executive sponsor for many committees ranging from the Hospital Environment Task Force and the Inpatient Experience Leadership team to the UAB Women in Leadership mentor program, my role lends itself more toward a team facilitator. However, this role has not been without its challenges. I believe that through a structured approach and a healthy respect for constructive conflict, the teams I am leading are functioning well and producing outcomes. These skills have assisted me in forming solid relationships with our clinical leaders in the nursing and the faculty areas.

Some examples of this engagement include bringing the clinical leadership team together to engage the units and procedural areas in support for the standardization of equipment flow and management throughout the organization. Like many hospitals the loss or misplacement of equipment strains the enterprise and can impact patient care.

The inevitable supply chain challenge is confirming, or dispelling, the belief that the resolution to the strain is to buy more equipment. Through collaboration with our IT developers, Value Analysis and clinical (anesthesia and nursing) personnel we are developing a well-organized, closed loop management of our large fleet of Alaris pumps which can then be rolled out to multiple other moveable equipment throughout the organization.

Academic medical centers can also present unique organizational challenges. Since arriving at UAB Medicine, the relationship with the University and its perceived need for control over the hospital's procurement and contracting has presented an opportunity for improvement. As a state entity, the University has the desire to control the hospital enterprise but an antiquated approach to problem solving is pervasive. Because of this approach, several of the antiquated processes significantly hamper the efficiency of the hospital supply chain and have potential legal, economic and regulatory risks. By approaching these processes through sound reasoning, comprehensive data and key timing, we are challenging these processes and achieving slow but steady progress. Importantly, these efforts will shift procurement of significant dollars associated with hospital services back to the hospital for management control and ultimately economic and regulatory benefit.

Building the right relationships to influence decision-making activity and removing the need to publically bid the hospital medical supplies is also underway. Much of my approach has been building the case for change through respectful challenges of the legal interpretations while offering reasonable options to meet the intent of the law through alternative processes. This shift will result in more efficiency for the hospital supply chain while maintaining a positive relationship with the University leadership.

Describe where you see health care evolving, and what you see supply chain’s role being in those future models.

I see healthcare evolving rapidly into a more technology-focused model centered on the consumer patient. I have the pleasure of serving on the AHRMM Legislative Committee covering the topic of Amazon's increased movement into the healthcare sector and the advanced technologies that are changing the face of healthcare. These technologies, from an Application that allows me to use my Apple iPhone to take a medical - grade EKG and detect atrial fibrillation in thirty seconds to the Empatica smartwatch designed for epilepsy management, are designed for the patient consumer.

This is an important acknowledgement of the more than a 10-year movement toward healthcare's focus on a patient centered model and away from the provider centric model. Specifically, this innovation and technology is moving fast and furious into our healthcare systems to support patient centered care designed to improve outcomes and control healthcare costs. I am passionate about the healthcare supply chain embracing this technology movement.

It is also important to link this movement to the changing reimbursement models. Specifically, as the patient experience becomes the central focus of healthcare reimbursement, progressive organizations will be those poised to benefit from more engaged patients, better outcomes and overall healthier reimbursement leading to solid balance sheets. The supply chain can and should be on the forefront of this technology movement and disruption in our industry. Anyone who has been in healthcare for several years knows that our industry has traditionally leaned more toward a conservative risk model making us less adept at moving at the pace of the more adaptive technology sector. Appreciating and having a healthy respect for my peers who believe that the traditional supply chain relationships and clinician preference drivers make our contracting, procurement and logistics unable to embrace Amazon- like models; Mobile Apps; or digital technology is shortsighted.

I would contend that this shift in consumerism that is driving patient centered care, makes a compelling argument for the need to become more expansive in our approach to the continuum of care and supply chain's contribution to population health; value based care and other reimbursement changes. Although these are our new "buzz" words, their impact to our organizations cannot be underestimated and likely their implementation inevitable. Many healthcare organizations are embracing the technology I reference but there are still many supply chains that have not been able to do so for varying reasons. AHRMM's strategy map's functional element of advocacy is important in fostering our industry's growth and continued expansion toward technology. Collectively, AHRMM's influence can and should extend to our industry partners to advance and transform how we approach technology demanding efficiency with the ultimate goal of safer and more efficient care for the patients and communities we all serve.

How will your leadership and vision strengthen AHRMM?

I strive to bring passion, an open mind, and logical thought to my organization, departments and committees in which I lead or participate. I bring a drive for continuous learning that supports the board's strategy and mission. In the forefront of all of our minds should be the development and mentoring of our industry and the next generation. As a more senior supply chain leader, I am concerned about the need to foster our future leaders. The skill sets needed to lead growth and change in our industry is becoming more complex. AHRMM can be the central point of resource for assisting to educate and develop the skills of its members and future leaders. My vision is a progressive mentorship for all members with a particular focus on growing a diverse supply chain workforce and leaders. The AHRMM CQO movement fits squarely into my desire to use the supply chain, and my other support services departments as a driver for the CQO movement at UAB. Having completed and received a certificate in Healthcare Patient Quality and Safety this spring I am accepted into the UAB Masters of Science program to receive this higher degree. I feel strongly that it is important that the Supply Chain and its executive leader be at the fore-front of this movement. Traditional thought is that the clinical side of the organization can only drive quality, improved outcomes, and cost efficiency. My goal in receiving this degree early in my tenure at UAB is to influence the organization on the critical role our supply chain plays in overall CQO.

It is an exciting time to be in the healthcare supply chain whether you are on the provider or supplier side. Reimbursement changes are driving increased transparency and collaboration among all partners in the supply chain. AHRMM's strategy map focusing on this collaboration and the expansion of relationships that foster AHRMM's vision and mission are increasingly critical to the future of the supply chain.

Together we are a force that can meet these challenges head on and continue to move our industry progressively and innovatively into a robust and profitable future.

Background

Total number of years as AHRMM Member: 15 years
Years in healthcare: 25+ years
Years worked in the healthcare supply chain profession: 16 years
Years worked in current position: 1.6 Years
Number of direct reports: 6
Number of employees in your department: Supply Chain 110; Support Services 1400
Type of Organization you are employed by: Hospital/Medical Center

Describe your current position and responsibilities:

Executive leader responsible for the operational and strategic direction of the organization's Support Services including: Supply Chain Services; Environmental Services; Inpatient and Retail Food and Nutrition Services; Guest Services; Transport Services; Patient Advocate Services; Volunteer Services and Pastoral Care. 

Service

List service to local chapter and to AHRMM national, including all committee/task force involvement, and whether you served as a member or as chair, within the past 5 years.

  • Alabama Supply Chain Association Member (not affiliated with AHRMM)
  • 2018 AHRMM Legislative Committee Member 2017/2018

List Annual Conferences, Leadership Training Conferences, and Thought Leader Summits attended, including dates and locations, within the past 5 years:

  • Multiple UHC national and supply chain/value analysis conferences (San Diego; New Orleans, Atlanta) 2012-2015.
  • Chick-Fil-A Leadership Summit 2013-2016 Gainesville, FL
  • United Way Leadership Series with John Spence 2012-2015 Gainesville, FL
  • Strategic Market Initiative (SMI) conferences -attendance Fall 2016 Denver; Spring 2017 Ft. Myers; and Fall 2017 presenter Dallas
  • AHRMM Conferences -attendance 2015 Indianapolis; presenter (CQO Summit) 2016 San Diego; attendance 2017 Washington, DC.
  • AHRMM CQO Task Force on Population Health Management 2017 (paper)
  • HIDA Annual Supplier Conference -presenter 2017 Miami
  • I ON Summit -Sr. Executive Forum -presenter 2014 Orlando; attendance 2015 Orlando
  • UAB Executive Leadership Series 2018 Birmingham
  • Vizient Annual Supply Chain Conference 2016 and 2018 (Las Vegas)
  • Masters Certificate UAB Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety 2018 Birmingham

Service to professional associations or community organizations to which you belong, including all committees, whether you served as a member or as chair, the year(s) of service, any elected offices held and the year(s) held:

  • Vizient Supply Chain Council Member 2018
  • HIDA Healthcare Supply Chain Collaborative Steering Committee 2018 Executive Chair UAB Womens' Leadership Council 2018
  • Strategic Market Initiative Member 2016-Current
  • UAB Healthcare Equality and Inclusion Committee 2017-Current
  • UAB University Sustainability Council 2016-Current
  • American College of Healthcare Executives 2016-Current
  • The United Way-Chairman 2015 UF Health
  • The Florida Bar Association 1990-Current
  • The Nevada Bar Association 2008-Current
  • AHRMM 2003-Current