Improve Your Strengths and Overcome Your Weaknesses

By Robert W. Yokl, Sr. VP, Operations — SVAH Solutions

Through my 28 plus years in the healthcare supply chain and value analysis world, I have seen many value analysis professionals over the years and all their different ways of managing their hospitals’ and health systems’ value analysis programs. I am happy to see that there are so many value analysis professionals now in our supply chain world. I am even happier to see that VA professionals have now moved from a luxury of having a value analysis clinical nurse in supply chain to being a vital  element of successful clinical value analysis processes that include new product requests, product conversions, and evidenced based studies. But just being one of these professionals in the role does not always guarantee your success. I would like to offer a few best practices to help make you better when it comes to maximizing your strengths and negating your weaknesses.

Go to Where the Care Is Given to Learn More: You come into the value analysis profession from somewhere else, whether it be nursing, laboratory, or even supply chain, and you bring with you strengths that will greatly aid you in the value analysis world. For example, if you are a nurse, you are already considered a great asset and are part of the circle of trust in a healthcare organization, which is outstanding. However, as a nurse, you more than likely only had a certain focus and don’t have a full perspective on other areas (e.g., you were a surgical nurse but you don’t know as much about the products on the nursing floor, lab, and other procedural areas).

In value analysis, you will have to interact with these areas as a coach and leader of value analysis initiatives, trials, and conversions. Do walk-throughs on these clinical areas, non-clinical areas (Environmental, Dietary, Lab, etc.), or throw on your scrubs to observe Perioperative areas in action to get a feel for how they do business.

Build Strong Relationships with Internal Colleagues as Your Experts: Even though you may know a lot about many of the products that you will be performing value analysis on, as you stay longer in the supply chain department, your day-to-day knowledge will diminish because you are not on the floors any longer. The best way to keep your finger on the pulse of the  products in your departments is to have strong relationships with the department heads and managers on these clinical floors that you can call on at any time to answer your questions or enlist them as experts in a value analysis initiative. With these strong relationships, you can call on them to perform product evaluation trials in their clinical areas more often and feel more confident about the feedback you get because they are a trusted resource to you.

Find a Mentor: When you first enter the healthcare supply chain world, you will discover that there is an overwhelming number of products, services, and technologies that you are expected to know and deal with on a daily basis. Add to that all the duties that come along with the value analysis job and all the interactions you are thrust into, and all of this can really put a major dent in your confidence to do your value analysis job. This happened to me when I first started out on my learning curve, but luckily, I had a great mentor, my father and CEO of our company, Robert T. Yokl (Bob Sr. in our firm), to coach me through my learning curve and help me become the proficient value analysis trainer, coach, and analyst that I am today.

I remember one instance that I had at a value analysis initiative meeting with a vendor representative and supply chain director to share a utilization spreadsheet report showing a cohort comparable to the client hospital that pointed to big savings. Well, the vendor was totally irate, yelling and banging on the table when we presented the data, disagreeing with everything in the report.  I came back to our office feeling majorly dejected. I told Bob Yokl Sr. what had happened and that I figured that was it for that savings opportunity with the client. On the contrary, he stated that, “If the vendor got that mad, then you struck a chord and that means there are big savings there. Keep at it!” Turns out he was right, and the hospital client ended up saving over $500k on that one savings initiative. It would have never happened if I did not have a great mentor.

Questions are Your Power: I am not a clinician, nor am I a true expert in any product category within a hospital, but more of a generalist with solid familiarity in most areas of operations. One important aspect that I learned early on was the power of questions and the ability to use them to overcome the lack of expertise and turn what appears to be a weakness into a strength. For my first five to ten years in supply chain, I used to really sweat the meetings where I had to sit down with a surgeon or clinician, for example, on a recommended value analysis change we were proposing. My mindset was, “I really don’t know anything about a particular clinical specialty, and I hope they don’t chew me up and spit me out.”

Case in point, about 20 years ago, I was working on a value analysis initiative for a client that involved Covidien Endomechanical Staplers. I was proposing in a meeting with a key surgeon that he switch to these staplers for dramatic savings. He looked at me and said, “I would if I could but I can’t, so I won’t, because I don’t like the feel of those Covidien staplers. I tried them in the past.” Not being a clinician myself and this being one of their top surgeons, I had to leave it at that, and the initiative was done. In getting back to our office, I reported to my boss, Bob Yokl Sr., and he asked me, “What exactly did he not like about the feel of the Covidien staplers?” He continued, “Was it the angle, the grip, or what was it? You can’t let them just tell you they don’t like a product. You have to find out the facts and perhaps Covidien has a stapler that he would like the feel of in their product line.” I was flabbergasted. He just taught me a major lesson – to ask better questions.

Instead of becoming a product expert, I have now become an expert question asker and listener, and realize that I don’t have to know it all about anything in a hospital because I can ask the expert in the organization what I need to know. There are always many experts within a hospital and/or health system to call on!

These are just a few ways that you, too, can improve your value analysis game to make your job much easier and more fulfilling for you and your healthcare organization!

About Robert W. Yokl, Sr. VP of Value Analysis & Supply Chain Solutions
Robert is the Program Leader for SVAH Solutions that provides value analysis, clinical supply utilization, and savings validation tools to help organizations to gain the next level of savings beyond price and standardization.