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The heart of supply chain

TB.JPGPeter Ver Lee, MD, FACC, interventional cardiologist with EMMC Heart Care, peered at a computer monitor set up outside an interventional suite on Penobscot Pavilion 2. We watched his patient’s pre-recorded looped imaging display the inner workings of her heart—it’s plumbing, specifically. Her coronary arteries appeared dark and bolded like an interstate drawn on a map, pulsing as they carried blood around her heart. Dr. Ver Lee pointed to an artery just barely visible to an untrained eye. This, he said, is where the blood flow to the patient’s heart nearly ceased.  
For thousands of patients per year who come to EMMC Heart Care, interventional cardiologists like Dr. Ver Lee determine just how severe the restriction of blood flow is within patients’ arteries and decide if they require the use of a stent to treat their condition. A coronary stent is a small mesh tube—about an inch long and 1/8 of an inch in diameter—placed in a coronary artery to keep it open and blood flowing to the heart.
The life-saving technology available to treat Heart Care patients today would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. And as the quality of technology and medical supplies our physicians use become better and more sophisticated, the cost of these tools can also be significant. That is why, in December of 2017, a team of eight interventional cardiologists, operations leaders, and Supply Chain staff, identified an opportunity within EMMC Heart Care to transition from three different stent vendors for our interventional cardiac patients to one primary vendor. So, what exactly does that mean? Our physicians are still using the highest quality stents for our patients, but since we agreed to buy most of them through one vendor, we get better pricing than we had previously. The work that providers and the system supply chain group have done thus far to create consistency in surgical products, like stents, will save the system $2.8 million annually.
DSC_0009.JPGDr. Ver Lee said his team of physicians agreed, rather uneventfully, on their preferred vendor. He was quick to point to Michelle Mayo, EMHS system director of Contracting and Sourcing, as the person who should get most of the credit for these savings. She brought the team data on their stent supply usage and recognized that if we agreed to go with one company, we could get a much lower price.
“If your team looks at the data for patient outcomes and the devices provide equivalent results, then, you can agree on one device that can be used 90 percent of the time. It can drive great results for your patients and your practice. You can’t get stuck in your own rut. Be willing to look at other approaches and consider something else,” Dr. Ver Lee told us.
“From the Supply Chain perspective, it’s very encouraging to see leadership and clinicians coming together to support evidence-based decisions that improve consistency and quality of our products and services while also lowering cost,” said Mike Whelan, EMHS vice president of Facilities and Supply Chain.
These improvements being made behind the scenes will go unnoticed by our patients, which means we continue to deliver heart care that doesn’t skip a beat.
Learn more about the teams that are working on opportunities like this at the Pathways to Our Future website: