November 2023 | From HIDA's Healthcare Distribution & Supply Chain™ magazine

Participants say the person-to-person conversations at HIDA’s Streamlining Healthcare Expo & Business Exchange drive business-to-business partnerships and sales growth.

If you want to move your business partnerships forward, nothing beats in-person, face-to-face meetings. That’s what attendees at September’s Streamlining Expo & Business Exchange had to say — and that’s what the conference delivered.

At a time when it’s harder than ever to connect with decision-makers, SHX created a venue for thousands of in person meetings: private business reviews between manufacturer and distributors, first-time introductions between prospective partners, and many other types of connections.

“There is no better way to meet current and potential business partners,” wrote one participant on the post-event survey. “It is rare to have so many decision-makers all in one place, which makes HIDA an incredible investment of time and resources.”

What’s The Buzz?

The Streamlining Healthcare event is a great place to find out what trends and issues are top of mind for healthcare industry leaders. Here are some of the topics that came up most often.

Staff Shortages Are Providers’ Biggest Challenge
  • Overworked staff don’t have time for salespeople. Sellers need to quickly home in on their customers’ most important issues.
  • Marketers and salespeople need to adapt to new communications styles — short videos, social media posts, and other messages designed for short attention spans and tight schedules.
  • Standardization matters: it’s far easier to retrain people (due to staff turnover) when products and processes are standardized.

One provider quipped:
“The best vendor I have is the one I don’t have to talk to.”

Government Sales Opportunities
  • This year’s Streamlining included speakers from federal, state, and local agencies who are more interested than ever in building partnerships with healthcare distributors and manufacturers.
  • HIDA members recognize that government is now a large and distinct market, with more than $8 billion in medical supplies in 2022, according to HIDA’s 2023 Federal Procurement Market Report.
  • Growth of the government market is a boon for supplier diversity, since most agencies have procurement guidelines aimed at supporting small businesses, veteran-owned suppliers, and minority-owned organizations.
  • The government is encouraging manufacturers and distributors to get on the Federal Supply Schedule so that their offerings are available when they are needed.

“If the pump is primed, we can turn the faucet on,”
noted one federal agency official.

Site-Of-Care Trends
  • Interest in the ambulatory surgery center market is greater than ever, based on conversations at SHX. HIDA’s Patient Volumes Chartbook shows that ASCs are the only care setting to have surpassed pre-pandemic demand levels.
  • Site-of-care shifts are driving acuity level increases in all settings. Hospitals, nursing facilities, and other providers are dealing with sicker patients who often require longer lengths of stay and more intense services.
  • Providers have resumed efforts to standardize processes and products, both to save money and to improve outcomes.
  • That’s harder to do outside the hospital, however. IDNs that own physician practices are struggling to create system-ness and standardization.

“Post-acute providers are still trying to survive day-to-day,”
noted one panelist.

Artificial Intelligence
  • Business leaders are embracing AI-driven tools to make themselves more productive, from writing emails and presentations to managing meeting notes.
  • Healthcare providers are at the early stages of incorporating AI into clinical decision-making. They need to test, vet, and validate results before assuming that AI can make appropriate clinical recommendations.

Is AI transforming healthcare? Not yet. As one speaker noted, “the medical industry is single-handedly keeping the fax machine alive.”

Photo gallery: Download the full magazine issue to view our top photo picks of industry leaders at Streamlining Healthcare. (Member login required)

HIDA Board: Cara Skowronski Passes The Gavel to Brad Hilton

The Chairman’s Dinner at the Streamlining Healthcare Expo & Business Exchange witnessed a ceremonial change of leadership as Cara Skowronski handed off the gavel to Brad Hilton, the incoming 2024 Chair of the HIDA Board of Directors.

Cara Skowronski passes the gavel to Brad Hilton Left to right: Brad Hilton and Cara Skowronski

As HIDA Board Chairman for 2023, Cara Skowronski accomplished a significant legacy in the four stated priorities of membership expansion, diversity & inclusion, environmental stewardship, and pandemic preparedness. She discussed 2023 priorities and the efforts HIDA has made in each area:

  • Membership Expansion: HIDA broadened its membership base to industry sectors that typically have not engaged with the medical supply chain, including IT and analytics, resilience, demand planning, and logistics teams.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Skowronski praised the incredible contributions of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and the upcoming launch of the Emerging Leaders program for outstanding college students.
  • Environmental Stewardship: HIDA launched a Sustainability 101 toolkit so healthcare distributors can learn key definitions, metrics, and strategies for curbing emissions and meeting climate targets.
  • Pandemic Preparedness: The second-annual Preparedness Summit featured 20 federal partners — double the previous year. HIDA completed its second year of a five-year cooperative agreement with the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and launched a Preparedness Playbook to monitor the medical supply chain.

“It has been a sincere honor to serve as your HIDA chair,” said Skowronski. “I urge all of you to encourage more engagement with HIDA in your organizations and take advantage of the educational content, successful advocacy and networking opportunities that HIDA is known for.”

Brad Hilton serves as Senior Vice President of Primary Care Sales for McKesson Medical-Surgical. Prior to his current role, he led McKesson’s Customer Experience organization, which includes distribution, operations, customer service, sales effectiveness, and support functions.

“What we have here is special,” observed Hilton:

“What we do matters. Let us lead the industry to something better and stronger than what came before.”

Joe Grispo Honored As 2023 Sasen Award Winner

The healthcare distribution industry honored Joe Grispo, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for B. Braun Medical, as the recipient of the 2023 John F. Sasen Leadership Award.

Joe Grispo presented with John F. Sasen Award by Matt Rowan Left to right: Joe Grispo and Matthew Rowan

HIDA President & CEO Matthew J. Rowan presented the award to Grispo during the Chairman’s Dinner at the Streamlining Healthcare Expo & Business Exchange in Chicago. The Sasen Award recognizes individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership, commitment, and service to the industry and to HIDA.

“Joe is an all-in leader who has played a pivotal role in championing distributors in the medical marketplace,” said Rowan. “He stays exceptionally close to the customer and has in-depth knowledge of how partners collaborate to create real value for providers.”

Grispo has served on the HIDA Educational Foundation Board of Directors since 2010.  His industry experience, customer knowledge, and supply chain leadership have been instrumental in the Foundation’s growth and success. He is also a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Red Cross Board of Directors.

As Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer, Grispo serves on the B. Braun U.S. Board of Directors and has direct responsibility for the sales operations for the Hospital Care, Outpatient, and Renal Therapies Markets in the United States and Canada. His 29-year career in the medical industry comprises 15 years of experience in national accounts working with group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and the distribution community in hospital and alternate site markets.

“I had the pleasure of knowing John Sasen, which makes this honor all the more enjoyable,” said Grispo. “Everyone in this room has a commitment to leaving this industry better than we found it. It is the thread that connects all of us.”

“[We have] a commitment to leaving this industry better than we found it. It is the thread that connects all of us.”
— Joe Grispo, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for B. Braun Medical

Is Artificial Intelligence Revolutionizing Healthcare? Experts Say The Answer Is “Not Yet” But Point To AI-Driven Advances

Artificial intelligence was the focus at the opening session of HIDA’s 2023 Streamlining Healthcare Expo & Business Exchange. Dr. Geeta Nayyar, former Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce, talked with HIDA CEO Matt Rowan about how AI is — and isn’t — changing the way care is managed and delivered.

Dr. Geeta Nayyar Dr. Geeta Nayyar speaks at the 2023 opening session

Nayyar stressed that AI may make us smarter, faster, and better, but it depends on how we use it. She is passionate about finding ways to leverage AI and other resources to counter medical disinformation. “At the end of every chain of disinformation is a doctor or an emergency room nurse having to clean up the consequences,” she said. Peter Bennett from Cardinal Health, Cody Fisher from Concordance, and Andrew Lee from Clarivate joined the discussion to home in on opportunities to leverage AI within the medical supply chain.

Panelists noted that AI could reduce provider burnout, allowing them to offload administrative tasks in order to focus on patient care.

“Employees should know that AI will enhance their ability to perform better and faster, solve problems in shorter timeframes, and take away mundane tasks so employees can use their intuition.”
— Peter Bennett, CPIM, Senior Vice President, Global Logistics, Cardinal Health

AI Can Address Supply Issues

AI has the potential to help organizations understand supply chain challenges sooner, panelists agreed. It can be used to improve demand forecasting, predict delivery times and dates, and recommend product alternatives.

“Shipping through the Panama Canal was delayed due to drought,” said Bennett. “Within 50 minutes, AI had mapped out a path to re-route containers. It didn’t make a decision — it proposed a solution.”

Human Insight Is Still Critical

“AI is becoming more capable at handling more complex human tasks,” said Lee. “But it is not an expert.” In another conference session, lab experts noted that regulations, policies, and procedures need to catch up with the technology advances.

While much about AI remains unknown, the uncertainty doesn’t have to cause trepidation. As one panelist put it, “AI is like the dark. It’s not the darkness you’re afraid of — it’s what you don’t know.”

“AI is just a tool like any other tool, like a stethoscope or an MRI.”
— Dr. Geeta Nayyar; former Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce

Distributor Leaders Talk Tech

Nowadays, there’s a tech tool to help with almost any everyday challenge that business leaders face — from writing difficult emails to keeping staff engaged. At Professional Women in Healthcare’s recent Leadership Workshop in Chicago, several distributors shared their favorites.

Among them:

  • The Fireflies AI tool that records calls and meetings, picks up on tone as well as content, and automatically generates a summary and to-do list from the meeting. This allows leaders to fully focus on the conversation during the meeting, rather than worrying about getting good notes, according to Gina Marchese of ProfitOptics.
  • ChatGPT and similar AI search tools, which are being used for quickly writing emails, product descriptions, and much more. Hugo Jeffrey of Surgo Surgical Supply advised that results will be even stronger if the prompt identifies the target audience, allowing the AI to customize the output.
  • PowerBI, which allows companies to connect and visualize data and find insights from that data. Allie Blanford of Lite Source utilized the program to write up-selling prompts for her customer service team; Cara Skowronski’s team is working on a project to use it to predict product stock-outs and proactively identify alternative products.
  • Microsoft Teams and similar meetings technologies that allow employees to interact and even to set and communicate their on-the-job hours and avoid being interrupted after hours.

“AI enables innovation,” said Marchese. “It will empower all of us to do more, faster, better; to create new ways of doing things and new services that transform our companies.”

Members: Check out the full magazine PDF for all articles in the November-December 2023 issue.