HealthPRO News

The Power of Possibilities: HealthPRO members and suppliers gather for a day of brainstorming around supply chain challenges

Challenges in the pharmaceutical supply are not only frustrating but can be a matter of life and death, so for HealthPRO nationwide members, this day offered a unique forum for exchanging ideas with suppliers on how to improve the supply chain together.

“We’re really here for one reason,” said Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Jitendra Prasad at HealthPRO’s Supplier Interactive Event on September 17, “to figure out how to work together to ensure the continuity of supply and improve our ability to deliver quality patient care.”

Not an easy challenge, but one that the nearly 200 suppliers and members were eager to undertake.

“The last time HealthPRO brought this group together was 2016 for the launch of our inaugural Transforming Together campaign where we set out to design market changes that would enhance patient safety, supply chain efficiency and ultimately improve patient outcomes,” said HealthPRO’s President and CEO Cynthia Valaitis.  “And, you responded in a BIG way,” she added as she introduced a video highlighting the successes suppliers helped achieve.

They were looking for the same kind of commitment and energy to bring new ideas to the following challenges:

  1. How might we continue to strengthen the health of our Canadian drug supply chain?
  2. How might we cultivate mutually beneficial contracts?
  3. How might Supplier partnerships help mitigate drug shortages?

To shake things up and generate new ideas, HealthPRO placed a mixture of suppliers, members and HealthPRO staff at each table.  The instructions to participants from HealthPRO Senior Clinical Director of Pharmacy, Nancy Giovinazzo were clear – “Don’t worry about finding solutions. The point is to push the envelope, think about the possibilities. Whatever we come up with is going to inform the decisions that HealthPRO makes later.”

From the word ‘Go’, the room was alive with the noise of animated conversation.

Where and how does change need to happen

So, what got us into this predicament – global consolidation, manufacturing disruptions, poor allocation strategies? There is no straight line to a cause or a solution, but there was consensus we must work together towards a better outcome.

Contracts that ensure both sides share the pain

Longtime industry insider and president of Generic Medical Partners, Tarik Henein expressed that when it comes to contracts, there needs to be more sharing of risk and reward.

Douglas Sellinger, Director of Clinical Quality, Safety and Logistics at Saskatchewan Health Authority didn’t argue, but knows it’s pretty tough to share risk and reward when hospitals have only so much money to work with. “The provincial government is a pretty important stakeholder and they have to be willing to buy into the concept that additional stock and supply is a shared risk and reward,” he said.

Looking for honesty

What healthcare customers like Sellinger are looking for from their supplier partners is transparency around shortages because dealing with the shortage causes headaches around more than price.

“Our pain isn’t only about the money being spent on drugs,” said Debbie Merrill, a HealthPRO member from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie. “We dedicate an unbelievable amount of time and resources to just managing the shortage.”

Savvy and forthright, Merrill blends her strong position with a desire to get it done. Coming together as suppliers and members around this table and talking about collaboration is medicine for her soul. “There’s always hope but we have to be proactive.”

It’s all about communication

The sun is always shining in Kelowna, B.C., but Interior Health’s Formulary Coordinator Allison Kirkwood says isolation is one of her big challenges. “I’m on the HealthPRO Portal every day, I don’t know what I would do without it!” she says. Kirkwood came to the event predominantly to build her network, but she is also hoping that the discussion and ideas will lead to more robustness in the supply chain.

The point of the brainstorming day was to consider all kinds of possibilities and when the final poll was taken, 100% of participants said they were going away further ahead than when they arrived.

As one participant observed, from a communications standpoint, it was a success. “There was lots of talking and listening.” Today’s shortages are impacting everyone, and no matter where you were sitting in the room, there was agreement that the people who are really suffering are the patients.  Jitendra’s opening comment was still true, “We have to find ways to ensure continuity of supply because it’s impacting our ability to deliver quality patient care.”