Supply Chain Services navigates ‘complex ecosystem’ to keep patients, employees safe

October 8, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

Almost everything you touch at Michigan Medicine — whether it’s personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, hand sanitizer, wipes or medical devices used directly in the care of patients — has been secured through the work of Supply Chain Services.

In fact, the department offers more than 39,000 unique devices and linens or products from more than 1,000 suppliers to faculty and staff at Michigan Medicine.

In honor of National Healthcare Supply Chain Week, Headlines sat down with Kristine Komives, the new senior director of Supply Chain Strategy and Procurement. She discussed the role of Supply Chain Services in the response to COVID-19, lessons her teams have learned during the pandemic and what she is most looking forward to in her new position.

Here’s what she had to say:

Q: “Supply Chain Services” is such a generic term. Can you explain exactly what your teams do every day?

KK: The supply chain is really a complex ecosystem of people, relationships, processes and tools to help buy, move and use safe, reliable, and high-quality materials and services to care for patients and families and to keep our staff safe.

Our teams are growing our ability to provide meaningful analytics as a feedback loop to help identify opportunities for improvement not just on cost but also on standardization and utilization practices as well as driving operational efficiencies.

We facilitate selection of products in partnership with faculty and staff. We manage risk through our contracting teams to ensure suppliers deliver the products and performance we need. We are responsible for forecasting and moving product across the chain from point of manufacturing to the point of care. This takes engaged and informed staff, reliable information systems, standard processes and rich analytics to make it all work. These activities are all occurring even while we are still dealing with the ongoing breaks in the global chain.

Q: Your department played a major role in the organization’s response to COVID-19. Can you talk about some of the challenges your teams continue to face and how those challenges are being met?

KK: Many links in the global supply chain are still fractured — product can’t be produced and moved fast enough to meet daily demand. Our teams spend a huge amount of time just to make sure we have sufficient and safe supplies. Products at risk have grown beyond key personal protective equipment and impact almost every category. On any given day we have hundreds of products on substitute. The team works tirelessly to actively communicate and prepare clinical teams for risks as they occur even though we may have very limited notice that products are in short supply.

Q: How will experiences gained during the pandemic benefit Supply Chain Services in the future?

KK: Our relentless focus on building and refining standard process to solve the myriad problems we face every day continues to pay us dividends. The skills we are developing and mastering around continuous improvement and root cause analysis will set the stage for our future development. We continue to grow deep knowledge about the upstream supply chain informing challenging and forward focused dialogue with our supplier partners. It is truly amazing to think that our teams help support the use of such a vast range of supplies from disposable cups all the way to high value spinal implants.

Q: What do you most look forward to in your new role? For instance, are there any exciting new projects in the works for Supply Chain Services?

KK: There is tremendous work all supply chain teams do every day already. My job is to provide continuity for them as we strengthen our BASE for the future. One project our teams are completing right now is the ENFit conversion across the health system. ENFit is a new international design standard to reduce the risk of harm to patients who receive enteral feeding care. The scope of this work is huge: 1,200+ unique supply locations impacted, 188 product changes, the introduction of 76 new products and new clinical practices. There isn’t a team in supply chain who isn’t involved in this work requiring tremendous collaboration with our clinical partners. This is just one of several initiatives our teams are focused on to support our organization.

Q: You’ve been at Michigan Medicine 23 years. What has kept you here for more than two decades? 

KK: The team. Talented and courageous individuals committed to continuous growth and development to make health care and health care supply chain better every day.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

KK: Setting up visual management inventory systems in my kitchen pantry! Mostly I enjoy spending time with family and friends, even with the added challenge of finding ways to gather safely. Reading fiction and pretending to be a good cook are high on my list, as well.  

This week, be sure to thank all the members of the Supply Chain team in your area!