In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital supply chain teams are feeling immense pressure. Supply chain has largely been insulated from the layoffs and furloughs facing some departments, but it wasn’t in a great place before COVID-19. Considering that Curvo estimated at least 60% of the organizations it works with had at least one opening in supply chain at the beginning of 2020, the situation has become even more difficult for teams that were already down headcount.

As our country continues to grapple with this pandemic, it’s more important than ever for hospitals to find savings opportunities across every possible category. And it’s a responsibility that lands squarely in the hands of the already-strapped supply chain.

Two Major Problems: Talent Deficit and Evolving COVID-19 Responsibilities

In early 2020, before the pandemic outbreak occurred in the United States, supply chain was facing a looming talent problem. There simply weren’t (and still aren’t) enough people with the domain expertise needed to successfully fill roles in the hospital supply chain.

Existing staff are overworked to the point that they don’t think they can train up new hires. And this training is laborious.

It takes between three and six months to train an inexperienced hire to the point that they begin making an impact on savings.

As a result, supply chain leaders want to hire only people who already have domain expertise. And with no one willing to train, the pool of qualified available candidates is extremely small.

Leaders in supply chain now face an even more complex problem: teams (who were already facing the talent deficit challenge explained above) have had another major responsibility added to their plate, which is PPE. Supply chain teams must work every day to source additional PPE. Because the pandemic can’t be predicted, it seems like the targets are constantly shifting. There is new legislation in the works surrounding PPE as well, yet another factor that supply chain must deal with.

And in the midst of it all, hospitals are relying on their supply chain teams to bridge the gap and close the financial shortfall caused by electives being offline.

This downward spiral leaves a very specific high-specialized niche both understaffed and overwhelmed. While this situation seems dire for supply chain, there are in fact two concurrent paths forward.

Two Solutions to Empower Hospital Supply Chain

At Curvo, we see two solutions to the hospital supply chain talent shortage program that’s now been coupled with team downsizing: a long-term solution and a short-term one.

The Long-Term Solution

There is some good news: this isn’t the first industry or niche to develop a talent shortage. Supply chain teams can look to other industries to see how they’ve solved these crises in the past.

Often, the solution involves developing partnerships with nearby universities. Industry leaders have gone to nearby universities with a detailed description of the skills and knowledge sets they require. And universities have developed programs to meet those needs. For example, the relationship between BMW’s US operations and Clemson University’s Center for Automotive Research has proved extremely beneficial for both parties. Some turn to local associations or economic development groups to drive workforce development programs. In Indiana, TechPoint’s Xtern program, helps deliver internships designed for postgraduate preparedness.

This or some variation of it is certainly a long-term solution that’s needed. Healthcare organizations need to begin demanding that universities provide the necessary training to fill the gaps in domain expertise. Put pressure on local universities and talent agencies to help you fill this gap. They can do more than they are doing, but not until major regional employers (that’s you) start pressuring them to do so.

This method has succeeded in solving talent shortages across a wide range of industries, and it can work in hospital supply chain, too.

We must remember, though, that this is a long-term solution. While many supply chain teams may not have faced downsizing like other functional areas, these teams were down a headcount before the pandemic started. As such, they may be under a hiring freeze and cannot add talent until financial recovery is felt by the broader health system. Hospitals are running into purchasing power limitations as a result of this shortage. And they can’t recover savings that impacts the bottom line without more support in supply chain.

The Short-Term Solution

The short-term solution must involve some form of automation. It’s critical to get more out of your current team without overworking an already overworked team. Hospital supply chains need to identify the various ways they can use technology to fill in the gaps created by this talent deficit, as well as the workload constraints caused by the pandemic. To do so, supply chain leaders need to invest in the tools that make work easier, both for the team members they have and for any new hires who still need to be trained.

Supply chain teams need solutions that eliminate the time-consuming manual work that slows them down:

  • Data preparation and manipulation
  • Data cleansing and categorization
  • Monitoring for price creep, utilization changes and market opportunities
  • Time to value in large category projects like Total Joints and Spine
  • Manual and time consuming steps in savings projects

They need better tools than they have had up to this point, tools that use technology and specialized data to fuel results. And, most importantly in this moment, they need a partner who is strategic with how they are packaging their solution so that upfront costs remain low.

Curvo Labs’ clinical spend management platform is a solution that meets many of these needs. Hospitals using Curvo see exponential gains in efficiency and achieve much greater savings results than before within the same time commitment.

How Curvo Alleviates Talent Deficit Pressures

How does Curvo help to alleviate the talent deficit in hospital supply chain while helping them uncover significant savings opportunities? For starters, Curvo allows supply chain teams to automate time-consuming, manual tasks:

  • Manual data manipulation and preparation
  • Clinical data normalization and classification
  • Procedure analytics with construct and component level detail

All of these can drain the life (and the time) out of your already strapped team. But Curvo makes these tasks simple.

Hospitals are also using Curvo’s tools to automate many of the manual steps in the sourcing process, such as:

  • Spend insights and savings opportunity identification
  • Collating and analyzing data in vendor bids
  • What-if scenario modeling

Through automation, hospital systems can free up their existing supply chain team members from time-consuming, uninspiring work. Doing so leaves them with time to focus on the strategic work that’s desperately needed.

With this type of automation in the sourcing process, teams are seeing significant time savings.

A single savings event that might take the team 10 to 40 hours will take substantially less. We’ve seen supply chain teams using our automation tools to send as many as 25 repricing events the same day with only four to six hours of total invested time.

This is the kind of time savings that truly bridges the gap. It’s a short-term solution that works, solving the real-world problems your team is facing right now.

Schedule a demo to see how Curvo can help your hospital supply chain team bridge talent gaps with technology.