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National Hospital Week 2022: Four insights from a month with hospital leaders

By Robert Rajalingam, President, U.S. Medical Products and Distribution

Every year in May, the industry celebrates National Hospital Week. I see this as an ideal opportunity to highlight our hospitals, health systems, and health care workers and the inspiring and innovative ways they are serving community members, especially through this pandemic.

I spend a lot of time connecting with hospital leaders and supply chain leaders. It’s clear that now – more than ever – these hospital leaders play a critical role in supporting and innovating patient care.  As I reflected on the time I’ve spent with these leaders over the last month or so, I identified four key findings.

1. The impact of labor, workforce challenges, staffing shortages and wage rates is staggering.

Take a look at any news article on this topic and you can see the magnitude of this challenge. To help combat this, we have to start with taking care of our health care workers and physicians. It’s that simple. This isn’t something we’ll solve for overnight (or even this year), but as an industry, we have to align around this critical problem to fix.

2. High engagement around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) will lead to improved outcomes.

I had the pleasure of introducing Cardinal Health CEO Mike Kaufmann when he presented at the Strategic Marketplace Initiative (SMI) spring forum with Bill Moir, senior vice president of Supply Chain Management at Henry Ford Health System. They had a “fireside chat” and discussed how senior leaders can prioritize, generate support for, and champion DE&I efforts. The engaging conversation and thoughtful questions and feedback from the audience of about 100 hospital supply chain leaders highlighted the interest and impact of this work.

3. Resiliency is the name of the game.

Hospital leaders are tasked with continuously identifying new ideas and ways to innovate – despite the incredible challenges of the health care industry today.

As one example, consider a supply chain leader in a hospital. Their job is to ensure that hospital staff have the products necessary for high-quality patient care – and they likely have to leverage analytics technology to transform data points into actionable improvements for the facility.

In an environment of supply chain constraints, inflationary costs, labor shortages, increased fuel costs, global challenges in the supply chain, etc. – that responsibility is incredibly difficult and fluid. They must navigate a high-stakes atmosphere that ultimately impacts patient care. This might even include helping shift the delivery of care to other settings within an expanding health system ecosystem. According to a 2021 Cardinal Health survey, more than 90% of health system C-suite leaders hold supply chain leaders at least "somewhat" accountable for being able to increase the delivery of care in non-hospital settings. Whether it’s tracking down critical supplies or helping with the shift to evolving care settings, supply chain leaders are facing increased pressure and taking on additional responsibilities.

The adaptability, resiliency and innovation demonstrated by all health care workers is admirable. It can often go unnoticed that health care supply chain leaders support patient safety and make more efficient, seamless care a reality.

4. There is incredible energy around connecting with peers in person after so long in isolation.

There is just no denying the energy and collaboration that comes when you can see a person’s expressions and body language in person vs. on Zoom. I hope to continue spending time face-to-face with our customers – hospital and health care workers – it absolutely enhances any relationship.

In the spirit of National Hospital week, I encourage you to recognize all those working in and for hospitals today – the work is essential, inspiring and often thankless. Thank a health care professional you know or work with for their often-unrecognized efforts today.

Robert Rajalingam is president of U.S. Medical Products and Distribution and maintains responsibility for managing the business, which is a leading provider of medical products and supply chain services.

Prior to this role, Rajalingam was president of U.S. Sales, Medical Solutions, and led the Acute, Non-Acute & Inside Sales, Laboratory, Channel Partners Group, Enterprise Contracting and Government sales teams. Earlier, he led the Medical Segment strategic selling organization, including the Strategic Accounts, Enterprise Contracting, Government, Channel Partners Group, and Customer and Market Insights teams. Rajalingam previously served on the board of the American College of Phlebology Foundation and volunteered as a Year Up mentor. In April 2022, Rajalingam was appointed to the board of directors for Nonin Medical, a company that designs and manufactures noninvasive patient monitoring devices for health care professionals and individual users.

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