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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Healthcare Supply Chain: Collaboration with Finance is Essential

It’s not unusual for departments in healthcare organizations to work in silos, a metaphor that reminds us of those tall farm structures used to hold and protect grain and feed. While there are many circumstances when healthcare information needs to be guarded, especially when it comes to patients, isolating data in some departments can actually harm an organization.

In certain cases, information sharing and collaboration is essential.

For instance, when people in supply chain and finance departments proactively collaborate, synch up efforts, plus integrate their technology, it can help an organization achieve its overarching mission of delivering quality patient care while reducing costs.

So, what are some techniques for successful collaboration between supply chain and finance departments?

1. Connect horizontally in your organization.

Silos are created because departments develop expertise and specialized roles. That’s why, according to an article in Inc., rather than try to break up organizational silos, it’s more effective to find new ways to reach out to your peers in other departments.

In order to reimagine a better way for organizations to function, “We must learn to shift our thinking from hierarchies to networks” writes Greg Satell, author of the article and the book Mapping Innovation.

That would mean leaders at the top need to encourage their teams to connect with other teams on a regular basis, in order to form organizational networks. And it means individuals need to feel empowered to collaborate.

Practically speaking, if you’re in healthcare supply chain, that may mean picking up the phone or emailing a colleague in finance, or literally walking across campus or venturing to another floor to have a dialogue. As healthcare systems merge and grow, it could mean reaching out to someone at another location. And, it means reminding others to connect, as well.

A few practical ways to start interdepartmental conversations:

  • Attend a mutually beneficial webinar, conference or class together; follow up with a discussion on how the content applies in each department
  • Schedule time to brainstorm ideas together
  • Ask to be connected to someone else, in order to increase the “networking” effect
  • Video-conference with teams that aren’t on location to get more people involved

2. Align goals to achieve an overarching mission.

Most healthcare organizations (and businesses) create a mission statement. But do individual team members know that mission and how their own daily activities help to achieve it? In addition, are departments combining efforts to achieve the mission efficiently?

Are individual and team efforts aligned with the organization?

Recently Forbes reported that alignment demands “cross-functionality, communication up, down and across the organization and between teams” in order to be effective.

If supply chain and finance departments are trying to combine efforts and align with the mission of the healthcare organization, that can oftentimes be facilitated by integrating technology. According to Health Data Management, data gathering is useless if departments don’t have true interoperability to share it. Success is more likely if alignment takes a holistic approach that includes individuals, teams and tech.

3. Work toward authentic automation in a procure-to-pay process. 

Although automation has become integral to most business operations, healthcare accounts payable (AP) tends to lag behind. In fact, many healthcare AP departments are still using paper-based processes — and that’s not financially sustainable.

As payment solutions evolve, finance departments are moving out of their comfort zone. Perspectives are changing from “how it’s always been” to “how it could be”––which means, now’s the time to reach out and work together.

When automation replaces manual processes from procurement through payments, millions and billions can be driven out of the overall healthcare system. It’s one reason why collaborating with the finance department can make such a positive impact on your organization. It also means that individuals can move from lower-level tasks to higher-level ones, adding even more value to the team.

As healthcare adapts to the new value-based system, departments must collaborate to find opportunities that help achieve the organization’s mission.

Learn more about GHX ePay, an innovative e-payables solution designed specifically for healthcare providers and suppliers.

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