Your next supply chain recruit may not need healthcare experience

DALLAS—Need a good supply chain manager for your hospital or healthcare system? These days, you might have some luck finding them outside of healthcare.

“We have to be more receptive to doing things differently,” said David Lopez, COO for Parkland Health & Hospital System, during a recent executive breakfast and discussion hosted by FierceHealthcare and American Express on innovations and trends in healthcare supply chain practices.

The five hospital C-suite and supply chain executives said during the event that they are looking beyond the healthcare industry for recruiting, with a focus primarily on those skilled in moving and tracking many items at once. Dan Schmitz, senior director for procure to pay and account/supply chain informatics at the Mayo Clinic, said the venerable Minnesota-based system has in recent years recruited supply chain executives from the military and the cargo shipping industry.

Sally Hurt-Deitch, market CEO for Tenet Healthcare’s five-facility Hospitals of Providence system, has recruited from maquiladoras, factories that are usually foreign-owned and typically located in Mexican border towns in order to take advantage of lower taxes and fewer regulations. El Paso, with a population of about 650,000, straddles the international border with Ciudad Juarez, with a population about twice that size. The Mexican city is home to factories for Electrolux, Bosch, Lexmark, Boeing and even healthcare suppliers Siemens and Cardinal Health.

Thinking outside the box for supply chain recruitment may have its benefits, but supporting a new sector may be a shock. “They may get that component, but coming into a healthcare system is very, very different,” Hurt-Deitch said.

Charles Cobb, administrative vice president and chief of supply chain for UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, observed that “there’s a barrier because there is such a steep learning curve to get in.”

But Tony Johnson, chief supply chain officer for Baylor, Scott & White Health, believes outsiders often have an edge against healthcare incumbents. “I believe talent, smarts and dedication trumps everything,” Johnson said, adding that he has hired people from the telecommunications, energy, automotive and banking sectors.

“Guess what? The people I am bringing in from the outside are actually running rings around the people in the industry,” Johnson said. He noted that outsiders often have the ability to assimilate more information and may also possess better interpersonal skills.

“I’m not saying you can’t do that with [healthcare personnel],” he said. “But I am saying we’re making a big mistake if we think you have to have the healthcare background to do this. You really don’t.”

One issue that may create recruitment issues: pay disparity. Johnson noted that a coveted supply chain executive may earn between $150,000 and $350,000 in another sector. But in healthcare, they may be offered $120,000 in a new position. “That has to be addressed,” he said.