In the face of post-COVID healthcare challenges, becoming an ‘innovation partner’ is critically important

By Erin Cristales, Vizient

Published: October 13, 2022

“As we move through this stage of redefining supplier/provider relationships, those who are willing to put it all out on the table are going to see very different discussions and relationships with their health system and supply partners.” — Bryan Grossman, Vizient SVP, Strategic Supplier Performance and Category Management

The pandemic reshaped the healthcare ecosystem so dramatically that a return to the pre-COVID way of conducting business is a non-starter. While this “new normal” can no doubt seem daunting, Bryan Grossman, Vizient SVP of strategic supplier performance and category management, is excited for the possibilities that lie ahead, particularly as suppliers and providers now have every opportunity — and impetus — to build more sustainable partnerships.

“I think about challenges like health equity, workforce and the significant margin pressures our health systems are facing,” Grossman said. “Suppliers can bring tangible solutions beyond products to transform their relationships with health systems from vendor to more of an innovation partner.”

Grossman recently brought his expertise in advancing supplier performance to IDN Fall Summit, which brings together senior healthcare supply chain and pharmacy executives to source innovative solutions from leading suppliers and GPOs. At the event, Grossman spoke to a near-record crowd as part of a panel titled “Long-Term Impact of the COVID Pandemic on Provider/Supplier Relationships.” There, he offered insights into several key challenges, including:

 

How suppliers can better position themselves as collaborative partners.

“It’s important to establish a mutual set of objectives for the provider and supplier that are measured through KPIs and formal relationship governance,” Grossman said. “In terms of how Vizient is coaching suppliers, we tell them the No. 1 thing is to understand the global challenges of the health system. I always point to the corporate objectives. As a supplier, it’s critically important to understand what that organization is focusing on.”

How expectations have changed in the GPO/supplier relationship.

“Suppliers’ expectations of the GPO are really important, particularly as Vizient has evolved the work we do with members around total cost of care and total cost of ownership,” he said. “It’s allowed us to provide access and connectivity more efficiently to a wider set of stakeholders. As you focus on broader value propositions, it’s important to make sure the value proposition is positioned across the organization. This element of proactiveness — diagnosing the challenges of our health systems and being out in front with our suppliers — is something we’re being very intentional about. We have the unique opportunity to get ahead of these challenges with data, analytics and an appreciation of the challenges of our health systems.”

The importance of suppliers gaining increased access to senior leadership.

“COVID put a spotlight on supply chain, and we have an opportunity to make that spotlight a catalyst for the change we need in the industry,” Grossman said. “It’s also put more focus on what an evolving supplier/provider relationship should look like — with supply chain positioned as a valued contributor to the C-Suite and to the board of directors.”

How to increase resiliency and transparency in the supply chain.

“We know there is a need for transparency, and both suppliers and providers are working to get there,” he said. “We’re seeing suppliers be more forthright about where they source their raw materials through their production cycle all the way through to consumption, while providers are openly sharing projections for their future supply demand.

“Think about the ability for providers to make suppliers aware of demand and give them a better understanding of what’s coming,” Grossman said. “As we move through this stage of redefining supplier/provider relationships, those who are willing to put it all out on the table are going to see very different discussions and relationships with their health system and supply partners.”

The permanent effects of COVID.

“One piece we’re continuing to see evolve is the migration to outpatient, and it’s important to understand the nuances that exist in outpatient versus inpatient,” he said. “This is a big way in which suppliers can help health systems that are in the first inning of developing their strategy. Suppliers have a real opportunity to partner to make sure that strategy is tailored in a way that touches on those nuances.”

The issues that need more attention.

“The existing sales infrastructure has to look and feel different in the nonacute setting,” Grossman said. “There’s not enough dialogue and discussion around how all of us in the healthcare ecosystem are structuring internally to deliver value. If we ignore that, we’re not going to be able to drive the sustainable change that we all aspire to do."