Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center is making great strides in supplier diversity

In 1897, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambéry opened a two-room hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, as a refuge for immigrants seeking medical attention. That small medical facility was the foundation for what would later become one of the top-rated hospitals in the state. In 2015, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center became part of Livonia, Michigan-based Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare delivery systems in the nation, and, together with other Trinity Health ministries, formed what’s now known as Trinity Health–New England.

In line with its founders’ goals, Saint Francis continues to maintain a community-centric mission and values. A key part of this effort has been the Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity at Saint Francis. The center works to promote and improve health equity through community engagement, primarily to ensure every aspect of the hospital—including the supply chain—understands the needs of its neighborhoods.

Tatiana Paredes, coordinator of Supplier Diversity, Health Equity and Inclusion at Saint Francis, works alongside the health equity team to learn more about the community and seek out ways to improve diversity in the supply chain process.

“Not only does our staff need to reflect the community we serve, but our suppliers do as well,” she says.

Growing a Supplier Diversity Program

In 2012, Saint Francis established a supplier diversity program as a way to foster relationships with minority-, woman-, veteran- and service-disabled veteran-owned small business enterprises (MWSDVEs). At the time, Saint Francis had only eight MWSDVE suppliers on contract with their GPO. Paredes, who previously worked as the regional manager of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. (GNEMSDC), came on board in 2013 to help grow the program.

Paredes’ employment background helped. Having worked at the GNEMSDC, she already knew several minority business leaders, and her attendance at the Center for Women and Enterprise event in Boston introduced her to many female business leaders. She searched the databases of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council to verify the information she was receiving from suppliers.

Janet McCain
Janet McCain

Today, there are 171 diverse tier-one suppliers with direct regional agreements with Saint Francis. (Tier-one suppliers provide their products or services directly to the hospital, while tier-two or tier-three suppliers provide their products or services to the supplier at the next highest level in the supply chain.) Since joining HealthTrust in April 2016, Saint Francis is purchasing from 15 diverse suppliers on contract with the GPO. As Saint Francis completes the HealthTrust implementation process, they are committed to evaluating and converting to contracted diverse suppliers, says Janet McCain, director of the Business Diversity Program at HealthTrust. “HealthTrust is also working with Saint Francis to identify current regional diverse suppliers that may have the potential to expand their business within HealthTrust as a regional or possibly national supplier.”

Darrel Mogilles
Darrel Mogilles

The maturity of Saint Francis’ supplier diversity program is commendable, notes Darrel Mogilles, assistant vice president of Supplier Diversity for HealthTrust. “Having someone at the local facility level solely dedicated to promoting and improving supplier diversity has a big impact. Our team is able to collaborate more effectively with Tatiana to better match the needs of the Saint Francis facilities to the most appropriate supplier diversity strategy.”

HealthTrust developed a Supplier Diversity Charter in 2014 that outlines the guidelines of the Supplier Diversity contracting process.

“Sharing and discussing the charter with Tatiana has really given her a clear direction on how to navigate supplier diversity within the HealthTrust GPO parameters,” McCain explains. “We’ve also guided her through HealthTrust’s Member Portal and shared our complete list of contracted diverse suppliers. We are working to help Saint Francis prioritize and identify conversion opportunities to diversity contracts with sole- and dual-source award status.”

Paredes maintains an open line of communication with diverse suppliers to ensure they get the assistance they need. “They are constantly reaching out,” she says. “I personally read all of the emails that come in and work with the vendors on a one-on-one basis. Whether through Facebook, LinkedIn, email—they know how to reach me. I’ve worked hard to build good relationships with them.” And as Paredes identifies diverse suppliers that might have the capacity to become national suppliers, she refers them to HealthTrust for consideration.

Today, Saint Francis works with diverse suppliers from several industries, including medical supplies, waste management and janitorial services. While they’re based across the United States, Paredes says the hospital’s supplier roster of veterans, women and minority business owners mirrors the population of Hartford. Roughly 27 percent of its contracted suppliers are based in Connecticut.

Paredes and her team aren’t stopping there: They want to ensure their diverse suppliers have the training and education they need to operate successfully. That’s why, for the second year, Saint Francis is offering a $5,000 scholarship to one supplier to attend Dartmouth University’s Tuck Executive Education program, which is committed to helping diverse suppliers adjust their business strategy and refine their operation to prosper and grow to scale. While at Tuck, the winner will participate in a five-day program, “Building a High-Performing Minority Business.”

“It’s a way for the hospital to give back to an MWSDVE from our community,” Paredes says. “Working with MWSDVEs has not only increased our overall savings, but added value in other ways, too,” Paredes adds. This includes a waste management company that consistently goes “above and beyond” the call of duty, such as donating cots when staff had to spend the night at the hospital during a blizzard.

A New Partnership

In December 2014, Trinity Health announced plans to acquire Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center and combine it with other hospitals in the New England region to form Trinity Health–New England. In September 2015, Saint Francis announced it had received approval from the Vatican and Connecticut Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Care Access to move forward with the merger.

The partnership with Trinity Health will amount to greater savings, more support for the supplier diversity program and stronger community engagement at Saint Francis, Paredes says.

Dameka Miller
Dameka Miller

“Trinity has a long history of supporting supplier diversity at both the corporate office and across its regional health ministries,” explains Dameka Miller, director of Supply Chain Management at Trinity Health. “As a system, we have generated spend in 17 diverse categories and support more than 1,700 MWSDVEs with tier-one spend of nearly $150 million.”

“As Trinity grows, the new ministries bring fresh perspectives and ideas to further enhance our strategies,” she continues. “The Saint Francis program has a unique reporting relationship to the local health equity executive, which extends the focus of supplier diversity beyond the supply chain and makes the intent of the program clear—to build healthier communities.”

That’s a reflection of the relationship between supply chain and health equity at the corporate level, Miller says, and Saint Francis is well-positioned to achieve Trinity’s vision for supplier diversity.

“The HealthTrust account directors also play a big role in guiding large IDNs, like Trinity Health, toward contract compliance, while also supporting the vision of diversity in a supply chain,” McCain adds. “Mary Nelson, the account director for Saint Francis and Trinity Health, does a great job of communicating opportunities for her facilities to use a diverse supplier when possible in a specific HealthTrust contract category.”

Saint Francis’ program also receives high-level support at the executive level, including the hospital’s president and chief medical director. This plays a big role in its success, McCain says. “We’re encouraged by the momentum that supplier diversity is gaining in the C-suite, and excited about the support facilities are receiving by networks such as Trinity Health.”

Priming Others for Supplier Diversity Success

In May, Saint Francis hosted its fourth annual supplier diversity event. At this one-day symposium, representatives from 102 diverse suppliers in the New England region were invited to learn about future business opportunities from prime suppliers and other healthcare organizations. They even participated in a “reverse” trade show.

“The reverse trade show is a unique opportunity for MWSDVE suppliers to meet representatives from healthcare organizations and prime suppliers,” Paredes explains. “After attending the workshops and learning about the business needs of these organizations, the diverse suppliers introduce themselves and their companies to the ‘exhibitors.’ ”

The suppliers also have a chance to participate in educational workshops. The first workshop included an introduction to Trinity Health, where suppliers learned more about the recent partnership between Trinity Health and Saint Francis. This year, McCain gave a presentation explaining the basic design and function of a group purchasing organization, which included information on what sets HealthTrust apart from other GPOs. She also shared the criteria for being considered a diverse supplier with HealthTrust, while also walking the suppliers through the entire HealthTrust contracting process.

“To use a vendor fair as a vehicle for giving diverse suppliers a shot at a national contract is not something you come across very often,” says HealthTrust’s Mary Nelson. “Trinity Health and Saint Francis are obviously committed to the goal of supplier diversity.”

This story first appeared in the Q3 2016 issue of The Source magazine.

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