Getting The Best Of Both Worlds

My name is Molly Head and I am a senior at Northwood University, majoring in Operations and Supply Chain Management with a minor in Health Care Management. This summer I worked as a supply chain intern for Henry Ford Health Systems (HFHS) in Detroit, MI.

Part of my time at HFHS was with the Cath Lab Supply Chain team, consisting of directors, analysts, consultants, managers, and clinical staff. The Cath Lab is a fast-paced environment in which medical supplies are quickly needed. As we implemented a nomenclature tracking system to address locating inventory quickly, our team encountered recurring products that were expiring before they could be used. These products totaled around 2 million dollars creating a lot of waste that the hospital was taking on. To reduce this we worked closely with the Director of Cardiology to discuss what products his department truly needs. Although many products had no usage within 6 months to two years, and are very costly, the Director explained the necessity of keeping those products in stock at all times. This is what sets hospitals apart from other supply chain industries. In a hospital, not having a certain product can make a difference between life and death for a patient. Even though this creates a necessary waste for the hospital our department was able to implement a process I designed for handling short dated (expiring soon) supplies. This process included working with suppliers and other HFHS departments to reduce par levels, a more careful examination and tracking of ordered inventory, and transferring or returning inventory before it has expired.

My biggest role at HFH was in the OR. In 2016, an employee accidently over-ordered 2.8M in surgical inventory. Over a year later there was still almost $800K in unused inventory, $30K of which was now expired, creating excessive waste, not only monetarily, but also in valuable storage space. I took the initiative to manage these products and had a goal to reduce the overstock by 30%. By the end of my internship I had not only achieved that goal, but surpassed it and was able to reduce the inventory by roughly $300K. I did this by collaborating with vendors, and other departments, hospitals and clinics within the HFHS, to either return low usage products or by transferring them to other departments.

I found that even though HFHS is a well-run hospital it still has inefficiencies, inadequate processes, and waste within their supply chain department. Nevertheless I saw a lot of brilliant and hard-working people who were coming together to make tremendous changes in the health care industry. Henry Ford Hospital allowed me to sharpen my communication skills, to build my confidence, and expand my network by giving me opportunities to work various levels of department staff and vendors.

When it comes to the healthcare industry technology and clinical practices are ever-changing, quickly making current supplies and processes obsolete. I was able to learn how to handle these changes by helping manage conversions, trials, and product changes. This internship also taught me how to coordinate the needs of one department with the needs of another and that the doctor is always right (even when they are not). Doctors and nurses may have the knowledge but without the right tools they cannot do what they do best; make people better. The success of the clinical staff is dependent on the supply chain staff and their skill and knowledge to get what the staff needs, when they need it. I was able to meet and discuss department challenges with the VP of Supply Chain, and to participate in daily OR huddles, multi-disciplinary meetings, luncheons, and the hospital’s daily safety huddle.

During my time at Henry Ford I was able to have hands on experience as well as given the opportunity to develop and implement my own system and process for controlling excess and outdated inventory, thereby lowering overall costs for the hospital. By working side by side with other managers I got to see what it takes to successfully run a vital hospital department. I do not think I could have had a better intern experience anywhere else.