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AHRMM21 Cost, Quality and Outcomes Summit White Paper
The CQO Leadership Summit provides a forum for stakeholders representing various aspects of the health care supply chain to meet and discuss complex and challenging issues impacting health care delivery and address supply chain’s role in meeting those challenges. The CQO Movement has highlighted supply chain’s unique and critical position at the intersection of cost, quality and outcomes that crosses the entire continuum of care and impacts population health. This has perhaps never been clearer than in the past two years as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe: the importance of having the right product in the right place at the right time and its direct impact on the health of the nation is undeniable. The pandemic has also underscored another reality: there are significant inequities inherent in the access to and delivery of health care in the United States.
AHRMM has been focusing on supplier diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) over the past few years and used the 2021 CQO Leadership Summit to explore the broader topic of health equity and its intersection with supply chain.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated social and racial disparities in health care outcomes and has brought health equity to the forefront of public health and discussion. While health inequities among people of different races and ethnicities, geographical locations, and socioeconomic backgrounds are not a new phenomenon, the pandemic has highlighted that disparities in social determinants of health have historically prevented members of these groups from access to fair opportunities for economic, physical and mental health. Social determinants of health are simply defined here as the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and worship that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.
The 2021 CQO Leadership Summit confirmed that supply chain is well-suited to the task of broadening its approach to advance health equity through strategic collaboration with other departments within hospitals and external trading partners. Just as the Affordable Care Act and changing health care landscape birthed the CQO Movement and required the health care supply chain community to unite almost a decade ago to look at supply chain more holistically, the pandemic and growing awareness of health inequity compels all stakeholders to come together and apply the principles of CQO to move beyond supplier diversity and consider DEI from a more universal standpoint.
The Summit took place in August and September in-person and online. The in-person gathering saw a research presentation on supply chain and health equity from two supply chain professors at the University of Tennessee, and a panel presentation from individuals working on DEI from within the ranks of health care. The Summit concluded with an online roundtable discussion.
The research presentation offered a more theoretical approach to the question of how supply chain can advance health equity. The University of Tennessee professors discussed a supply chain model for moving beyond supplier diversity to an approach that includes the social determinants of health (summed up in the term “economic inclusion”) and proffered an equation to begin measuring the ROI of such efforts.
Through the panel presentation, Summit attendees heard about practical applications of pushing beyond supplier diversity to economic inclusion. Two health systems and one medical device company shared how they are collaborating with multiple entities to create equitable health outcomes for America’s communities by tackling underlying economic and racial disparities. The online roundtable discussion allowed attendees to talk about key takeaways from the in-person Summit and share how their organizations and supply chain departments are making inroads to advance health equity.
Throughout the presentation, exchanges and discussions several themes and takeaways emerged:
1 | Collaboration and “Coopetition”
The problem of health inequity is deep, vast and well-rooted. It will require systemic change with collaboration and cooperation between governments, institutions, community organizations and individuals. The pandemic saw companies, institutions, and organizations form unlikely alliances to battle the COVID-19 coronavirus, creating what was coined as a healthy “coopetition,” or cooperative competition, leading Summit attendees to reflect on whether this is the dawn of a new era in health care.
2 | Trust and Culture
The field of health care and health care institutions have been struggling with inequity and disparities in outcomes and its causes for decades. There is a well-documented lack of trust in authorities and institutions that exists within many communities affected most egregiously by the disparities in care. Any approach to solving the problem of inequity must start here. Building trust begins with listening and requires transparency, respect and reliability in relationships at the individual and institutional level. Trust is part of the overall organizational culture. Building a culture of trust and one that is open to change creates the infrastructure for health equity.
3 | Data
The need for data sharing and analytics continues and will be foundational in making lasting change. There is a dearth of metrics to measure this more “social” approach to supply chain. Some metrics have emerged for the larger field of health care, but supply chain needs to tailor them or develop its own. In many cases, the necessary data already exists, but stakeholders need to share data across the health care field and use it more effectively. There also needs to be data sharing with new partners, such as local businesses, community organizations and governments.
4 | Mentoring
Developing diverse suppliers locally and upstream to create an equal playing field will require cultivating and expanding the business skills of many companies. Mentoring programs, tool kits and coaching are needed. The health care and supplier communities can unite to offer and make such services free and available to prospective training partners.
5 | Strategy
Creating a robust and diverse supplier community demands strategy. Strategic sourcing, purchasing, partnering and creating pipelines for individuals with diverse backgrounds and businesses with diverse ownership will require intention buttressed by solid strategy.
6 | Alignment
DEI must become a strategic supply chain priority, and supply chain’s DEI objectives must be aligned with the DEI goals and resources of its parent organization. In situations where the organization doesn’t have well-established DEI goals, there is an identified need to develop a justification toolkit and share more tactics to champion this work as well as identify ways to fund DEI initiatives. As AHRMM prepares to take the themes from the 2021 CQO Leadership Summit and bring it into its learning communities for further exploration it should use these insights and information as its guide.