Supply Chain Guide to Partnering with Surgeons Part 2: Share Data

Supply Chain Guide to Partnering with Surgeons Part 2: Share Data

In the first installment of this three-part series, we detailed tips from industry experts on supply chain best practices and the importance of preparation. We continue that conversation in this second article, diving into the data analytics aspect of supply chain presentations.

Frame the Discussion Around Accurate, Transparent Data

Healthcare supply chain leaders invest a great deal of time and energy into telling their value story to clinicians through data. That story usually involves some sort of change the supply chain seeks to make based on that data. To achieve success, the data analysis presented must be spot-on or surgeons will tune out and potentially lose trust in the supply chain team’s analysis.

Define the Data Scope and Ensure Accuracy

The most important prep work comes when organizing the data and deciding how to present the information to clinicians. Supply chain professionals must ensure accuracy and transparency of the data analysis. Bringing surgeons’ data that’s not well-tuned can quickly damage trust. Rebuilding those relationships can cost the supply chain a great deal of time and effort.

“It’s so important to become very familiar with each surgeon’s case pattern because your reputation – and the project yield – is on the line,” says Brad Nash of Brad Nash Consulting.

“You’re representing an organization’s reputation as well, so attention to detail is critical.” He adds, “Before all of my meetings, I memorize each individual surgeon’s case record history. And usually, I’m put to the test with it. If I pass, then the integrity of the data analysis is preserved.”

Similar to supply chain professionals, clinicians are accustomed to making data-based decisions when determining patient care. And so they require a full understanding of clinical supply data and its validity to confidently assess the risk and mitigate outcomes.

“Is the data actual or computed? Surgeons need to understand the data presented,” says Kelley Young, former Supply Chain Clinical Informatics Director at Trinity Health.

“For example, when presenting the cost per case, be clear what is represented in the price of the implant,” she explains. “Does it include all main implants of the hip and the screws or are screws considered an add on? This is especially important when benchmarking across organizations or surgeons themselves.”

Know What the Clinical Data Represents, and What it Doesn’t

Transparently sharing data with surgeons supports institutional alignment, garners buy-in, and reinforces supply chain’s purpose and the importance of reviewing case studies. To achieve those goals, clinical informatics professionals must clearly communicate the data source, the frequency of extraction, and the universe it represents.

Ensure Data is Cleansed and Standardized

It’s vitally important to make strong, accurate comparisons — vendor to vendor or construct to construct — or surgeons will inevitably focus on any anomalies and distrust the rest of the information presented. It goes beyond simply comparing apples to apples. Surgeons expect to see an organic Fuji apple compared to another organic Fuji apple.

Before meeting with a physician group to review case data, check for any outliers and/or waste that may skew the analysis results. Ensure you deeply understand the numbers you plan to drill down during the presentation, so you can confidently explain the results and what’s excluded from the dataset.

“Failing to remove outliers may cause the physician to get stuck on those cases that fall outside the norm,” Young says. “Make sure to cleanse the data.”

Nash also emphasizes the need to fix or adjust incomplete case records or records containing waste. “The decision to exclude information,” he explains, “depends on the desired result for the project. If telling a vendor’s story based on thousands of case records and seeking to normalize the clinical supply data, then it makes sense to pull out the waste.”

“However,” Nash adds, “if there’s a disproportionate amount of waste with one surgeon versus others, which affects their average cost per case, it behooves you to address that with the surgeon to improve waste reduction.”

After reviewing hundreds of thousands of orthopedic cases, Nash relies on his experience to create rules about what to eliminate from the case data analysis. During a presentation, he makes sure to clearly communicate what supply chain data was included – and what was excluded. This puts the audience members at ease and shows sensitivity to their patient environment – which is also subject to anomaly and exceptions.

From Brad’s experience, “it’s better to have 98% of the total cases accurate than 100% included with 2% of the case records wrong because an eagle-eyed surgeon will call you out on it. This compromises the entire sample and damages the trust you’re attempting to build.

Take whatever time you need to get the data story right because if you’re wrong, you won’t get a chance to see that surgeon again.”


  • Know your data to pass the surgeon’s test
  • Declare the parameters of your analysis up front
  • Invest the time in the data story you have to tell

In the third and final installment of our blog series, learn about the importance of emotional intelligence and visual storytelling to effectively communicate your data story with surgeons.