Erie St. Claire Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), a provider of home healthcare in Ontario, transforms an inefficient, paper-based purchasing and delivery system with the help of Transform Shared Services Organization (SSO). Tara Lachapelle, applications manager and senior business systems analyst with Erie St. Claire, and Renée McIntyre, director of supply chain with Transform, discuss the results.
SCB: Tara, tell us about Erie St. Claire LHIN.
Lachapelle: We’re part of a network of 14 LHINs that covers the province of Ontario. We’re responsible for home and community care, outside of clinical settings. We service about 40,000 patients per year in our region.
SCB: Renée, give me a description of Transform.
McIntyre: Transform is a shared services organization. We are a not-for-profit agency that provides end-to-end supply chain services for our five member hospitals. We also provide information management, information technology to those hospitals, and we’re a digital health delivery partner for the Erie St. Claire region.
SCB: What was the challenge that you faced at Erie St. Claire?
Lachapelle: Previously, we had an in-house medical supplies department where we picked and packed patient orders. We didn’t have supply-chain specialists on staff, and we had very outdated processes and activities to fill patient orders. Additionally, we had a growing patient base, with a lot of new products that were being asked for. We were really struggling to fill those patient orders. It was very manual and paper-based, no software or technology involved.
SCB: When you decided it was time for a change, why did you turn to Transform?
Lachapelle: Transform is the delivery partner in the region, and we work very closely with our hospitals as well. So we knew about Transform and the work they do. It was just a natural relationship.
SCB: Renée, was this a common challenge for you?
McIntyre: From our organization’s perspective, this is what we hope to see with all of our publicly funded health service providers. Because we are the supply-chain delivery partner for our hospitals, that LHIN was able to leverage existing affiliate agreements that are already in place.
SCB: How did you prioritize what needed to be done, and what did you do first?
Lachapelle: Transform prepared three phases for us. We followed that blueprint and they guided us through the process. It was a great deal of work in a very condensed period of time.
SCB: What was phase one?
Lachapelle: Phase one was the actual contracts for products in the stock room. That was a pretty simple change and we did it very quickly, within 60 days.
SCB: Was this a common problem that you had previously experienced with other healthcare providers?
McIntyre: I’m not so sure I would say it was a common problem. However, when we dug into the operational review, and saw how they were previously contracting, it was not an optimized model for a healthcare setting. We leveraged our existing agreements and were able to drive their price point down, allowing them to hop onto existing contracts in a competitive manner.
SCB: And phase two?
Lachapelle: Phase two was moving pick-and-pack operations over to Transform’s warehouse. That took about another year to plan and execute. But we had the blueprints, and Transform was there to guide us through the process.
SCB: Were you moving into their existing facilities? And where were you staging inventory prior to that?
Lachapelle: We had a small stock room in one of our offices. They prepared their warehouse, stocked it, and bought out the existing stock we had on hand. They made it very easy. They picked it up one day, and it was at their warehouse.
SCB: Was it just a question of making room for Erie St. Claire’s stock at your existing warehouse?
McIntyre: Prior to this project, we did not manage a warehouse. We actually built one from scratch for it. We had adjacent space where we were located, and so it made good sense.
SCB: What did you do on the information-management side?
McIntyre: The other focus of the project was automation. What enabled us to build an efficient inventory management and warehouse rate from the start was the fact that we had 11 months of data that we acquired during phase one to put through our ERP system. We were able to see utilization patterns, and use that data to create a sound inventory-management system.
SCB: Where did automation fit in, in terms of the three phases?
Lachapelle: It was scattered throughout. It was a good part of phase two, before the warehouse operation was moved. We were also getting our nursing providers onboard with entering orders in the patient home.
SCB: What was phase three?
Lachapelle: Phase three was the nursing part — nurses doing their entries into the system.
SCB: What was the biggest challenge in bringing them around to your system and making all this work?
McIntyre: I would say it was around the technology and the interfacing — having the two systems talk to one another, because we’re dealing with patient data. Also making sure we’re meeting all of the privacy legislation requirements, and that we’re getting a accurate transmission of data.
SCB: I understand that prior to working with Transform, patient data and patient records were unavailable to you, because you were too busy just keeping your heads above water.
Lachapelle: We did have that problem. We had to sacrifice some things just to get the supplies.
SCB: Where are you now in this journey?
McIntyre: It’s been a great working relationship. Over the past year, we’ve driven over a 30% reduction in their supply chain costs. We now have an end-to-end automated supply chain, and we’ve reduced all of the redundant manual data entry points in the supply chain. As the nurses input orders, the information transmits through to the LHIN system, then to our system, where it creates pick tickets in the warehouse. Items are then picked, packed and shipped out to patients. All purchase-order and inventory-management data is sitting on an e-commerce platform as well, to create those efficiencies from a supply-chain perspective.
SCB: Tara, what benefits you have seen at Erie St. Claire LHIN as a result of working with Transform?
Lachapelle: So many benefits. Just the transparency of where the supply comes from and where it goes, all the way through delivery. And we never had that before. We can now link supplies to patient outcomes, which is just so important to us.