The Healthcare Hub

Managing Change and Earning Trust

posted by: David Walsh
Thursday, June 27, 2013

At the 2013 GHX Healthcare Supply Chain Summit, I had the pleasure of co-presenting a workshop on building a master data management strategy with Franco Sagliocca, Director of Procurement Systems and Operations for the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, and my colleague David Farrar, MMIS Analyst for Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center (SFHMC).

While audience members asked a number of technical questions about how we leveraged automation to clean up our item masters and maintain their integrity over time, they were equally if not more interested in the human aspect – how we engaged clinical and non-clinical staff in an effort to transform a data source that touches virtually every aspect of our organizations.

Our challenge at SFHMC was not just winning over those outside of supply chain department but also those within it. When I joined the organization in January 2012, I quickly realized there was something very wrong with the item master and processes around it. When I proposed to my team sweeping changes in the way that we manage and maintain our item master data, they were fearful that I would uncover what they were doing wrong and be criticized for their actions – or worse. They were also worried that change would mean more work for them, and just about everyone felt they had too much to do already.

I was honest – stating how change would require more work up front but it would benefit everyone in the long run. As for laying blame, I explained how the problems with our item master were not their fault – it was the system’s fault, we need to fix it and I wanted them to be part of the solution. Because I had secured C-suite support up-front for the initiative I sold the team on the high visibility of the project and how it presented an opportunity for them to show executives the importance of their roles in the success of the broader organization.

The next hurdle was selling the clinical staff on our supply chain transformation. When I told my team that we needed to get the heads of nursing together to gain their support, the response was “Are you kidding me? The nurses don’t talk to us!” As with our data management issues, the lack of communication between supply chain and clinical staff wasn’t intentional, it was just something that happened as each group worked in their separate silos over the course of many years.

To the astonishment of my team, nursing leadership thought our master data management strategy was a great idea and they were eager to get involved. But my team was still skeptical – I look back on those initial meetings and think about their nervousness related to sitting around a table and hashing through supply chain issues with clinicians who, for the most part, had little knowledge or understanding of what we do. As the supply chain team and clinical staff got to know each other and understand each other’s challenges those meetings got smoother and we quickly made progress – together.

A wonderful aspect of this collaboration was that individuals who had been corresponding via phone and email for years finally had the chance to meet each other face to face. We had buyers who had been purchasing for clinicians for 15 years and had never met them! More than once at these meetings I heard someone say, “So that’s what you look like!”

The greatest benefit that came out of this collaboration between supply chain and clinical staff was the ability to manage change together and build trust. Today, nurses bring supply chain issues to our attention because they understand how our work truly impacts the organization. I recently received a call from a charge nurse telling me that a surgeon had been set up to use a certain product for a case but he decided in the moment to use a different product from a supplier rep’s trunk stock. I went up to the OR and sat with the surgeon to understand the situation and come to a resolution. It’s these examples that demonstrate how supply chain is now perceived as adding value to patient care.

There’s no point in sugar coating it - change is difficult. My advice to other healthcare organizations implementing master data management strategies is to get all of those who will be impacted by the change face-to-face in a room to acknowledge and address their fears, discuss why change is needed and important, facilitate collaboration and build a team that will actively support the initiative in the course of their work: whether it’s down in supply chain, up in the ORs or anyplace in between.