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Supply Chain in a Pandemic: Andy Brailo with Atrium Health

Conrad Emmerich, senior vice president of supply chain, lab, imaging & CPO, Atrium Health, joins Premier’s Chief Customer Officer, Andy Brailo, for an episode of 3Q, answering three questions about managing supply chain during a pandemic.

Conrad joined Atrium Health on March 1, 2020, as part of the system’s combination with Wake Forest Baptist Health, which he’s been a part of since 2010.

Andy: Being relatively new in the role at Atrium, but not new to supply chain at all, can you reflect on the magnitude of what you’ve felt during the pandemic, Conrad?

Conrad: It’s been a wild ride for the last year. I came into Atrium in March of 2020 and was really in the office for about a month before we went remote.

Having the experience of a little bit of familiarity with the team and organizations, I learned very quickly what Atrium Health’s supply chain does well and where we had to adjust to ensure we could keep pace with what we needed to do for our clinicians and our caregivers.

Andy: What were some of the innovation, new strategies and teamwork that came together in this incredible environment?

Conrad: A couple of examples:

  • Warehousing and an emergency stockpile: That allowed us to help de-risk any demands on supplies or potential disruptions. It bought us some time, but there’s a lot more than just being able fall back on a stockpile.
  • Appointing team members as the lead on critical supplies: With the talented people and access to resources in our supply chain team, we were able to quickly adjust and align certain folks with categories of critical supplies. For about a six-month period, we knew one of our individuals was primarily our globe person. They dealt with all the incoming requests, all of the potential non-traditional opportunities – we’d always go to that person for that category. We had about eight to 10 people for specific categories and they’d be our go-to people.

Those two strategies allowed us to be flexible and keep pace with what was being thrown at us.

Andy: As you look ahead to the next 12 months, what are some lessons learned and how might you approach supply chain differently with this hindsight?

Conrad: The biggest area we need to continue to shore up and improve on is our resiliency planning.

As I mentioned, we were in an okay place with the strategies we had at Atrium Health, but we as an industry and organization need to continue to drive toward transparency. I believe that will be our greatest asset and will allow us to be in a position for success, partnering with organizations such as Premier, partnering with our suppliers and our manufacturers, and really being all-in together to understand where our supplies and raw materials come from, where we have dependencies globally and geographically, to de-risk and mitigate that to some degree. That’s our biggest opportunity moving forward.

Secondly, along those same lines, we have historically operated in siloes from a health system perspective. The more we can come together, be transparent about what we have, about what we’re doing – really learning from each other about what we’ve done well and where we’ve had missteps (because we’ve all had them). I think that’s an area we can really do well moving forward. I’ll applaud Premier for continuing to help us and bring us together, because that’s a differentiator.

Andy: It’s certainly interesting, talking about resiliency, the raw materials, the country of origin.

We’ve been trying to figure out this magic equation: what is the right balance of domestic, on-shore, near-short and international production? We know we need to diversify more than we have in the past, and that’s one of the things we’re excited about thinking through with you and your colleagues, what those strategies look like to create some backstop and some resiliency.

Conrad: And that’s part of our plan. We appreciate your guys’ support in that and it will be something we look forward to in diversifying our suppliers.

Andy: We say the series is called 3Q, but we want to have a little fun. If you were to look at your playlist, what would be the no. 1 artist, album or song on your playlist right now?

  • Conrad: It would probably be a tie! Either T. Swift or Dave Matthews.
  • Andy: I’m back on a Beastie Boys binge, so probably something off of Paul’s Boutique.
  • Conrad: Awesome.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn and check out the hashtag #3Qvideo for more of his insights and interviews on hot topics across healthcare.

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