Renowned for innovation, Stanford Medicine continues to improve resiliency, while pioneering in analytics, sustainability, and digital transformation across supply chain 

Stanford Medicine is made up of multiple organizations and is part of Stanford University. In the leagues of academic research and innovation, the institution plays a pivotal role in the history of US education, cutting edge medicine, and innovation. In February, we had the privilege of speaking with Amanda Chawla, the Chief Supply Chain Officer at Stanford Medicine. She outlines the challenges that currently impact the medical industry’s supply chain, as well as the institution’s pioneering efforts to instigate innovative solutions. 

Amanda Chawla

With over two decades of experience in healthcare, Amanda brings a multifaceted background to her role. Having initiated her career in psychiatry, she then weaved her way through private practice, clinical trials, clinical and operational leadership, and supply chain. “I’ve been at Stanford for nearly eight years now, it has been a transformational and rewarding journey. Supply chain serves as a strategic function to the organization and is also very much operational. It is the supportive arm to every department and every function within the organization; with the primary mission supporting the healing hands that care for our patients and our customers. Having experience in clinical operations such as the operating room, clinics, radiology, etc. provides a unique perspective of customer needs and enables me to forge stronger partnerships and serve our customers in the way that’s needed.”  

Leveraging data and analytics 

During Amanda’s tenure, there have been significant evolutions, from improving operational efficiency, building high performing teams, and enhancing services to realizing significant financial savings across the organizations. Alongside these developments, there have also been investments and technological advancements. From data governance and standards to analytics, the ability to harvest information in a meaningful way is enabling the team to advance in removing friction. “For example, our analytics team collaborates with the logistics division to not only understand their pain points but also spend time on the ground, to Gemba, to truly comprehend the challenges and iterate, through an agile process, to develop solutions,” she explains. “Stanford Supply Chain has boosted efficiency by ensuring that the right people have the right information in the right way to make the best decisions.” This collaborative approach resulted in the automation of 800-plus manual hours in the supply chain, a tangible testament to the impact of leveraging data and analytics.  

Tight-knit team 

Amanda also highlights the institution’s proactive stance on adopting emerging technologies. “In addition to the core, we must utilize machine learning and generative AI to enhance the way we operate. We are piloting the use of this technology in effectively communicating with our staff more briefly and frequently, and in multiple languages.” The use of generative AI extends beyond communication, also reaching into contracting areas to ensure precision in expenses and to foster innovation across various spheres. “We have to ensure that we know we’re paying the right price and understand the questions around to what degree do we have a utilization versus price problem. We need to ask ourselves: how can we link our expense data to our contracting data? The point here is to lean in and know that we may not have it perfect or right, but we are continuously thinking about how to elevate what we’re doing, how do we support our team members by taking friction out of the system by making it easier to do the right thing at the top of their skillset and disrupt the way in which the healthcare supply chain has operated. We must be patient with each other, but impatient for results and have an openness to strive to build a better future today. I think that’s an integral part as we continue to transform. Obviously, the most important ingredient to ensuring this transformation goes as smoothly as possible is having a dedicated team; people is where the magic happens, and, in my opinion, we’ve got an excellent team of supply chain leaders, team members, and key partners behind all these operations,” she adds. 

Our conversation then pivots to the broader responsibilities of the organization, particularly in the domains of sustainability, and supply chain resilience. Amanda outlines Stanford’s commitment to sustainability, which is evident in the fact that the business was an early signatory to the White House pledge for net-zero emissions. Supply chain has taken the work a step further to hyperfocus on how the way supplies are procured and utilized in an organization can play a role. Stanford has developed procurement policies that incorporate sustainability, including a rigorous evaluation of product utilization and supplier partnerships. The commitment extended to a development of a multi-year roadmap in which supply chain directly contributes to and or influences the organization’s goal.  

That said, the challenge of measuring sustainability impact is not lost on Amanda. “Sustainability at Stanford is driven at all levels from the board and throughout our leadership. Our central sustainability team has several measurable initiatives underway and has made significant progress. Specific to supply chain our challenge is to create that algorithm to prioritize initiatives and develop a sort of calculator with a supply chain perspective,” she discloses, emphasizing the ongoing efforts to define and measure sustainability impact accurately that is specific to healthcare supply chain.  

Resilience and transparency 

We then look at the expansive realm of resiliency in supply chain, and Amanda characterizes it as a comprehensive program that encompasses proactive identification, prevention, response, and continual learning. With a nod to the disruptions inherent in the industry, she stresses the importance of managing and mitigating impacts, especially for frontline clinicians. Supplier relations are a critical component, and Amanda advocates a holistic approach that goes beyond data and forecasting, one which emphasizes strategic partnerships and diversification in her supply network. “Of course, the pandemic has been one of the most pivotal moments for supply chains, regardless of the industry you’re in. For us, we moved from just-in-time to just-in-case to just-right inventory management to ensure that we were prepared for any eventuality,” she says, adding that the team also worked to balance supply and demand, which meant finding a ‘just-right’ approach. Strategic stockpiles, relationships, and diversification play key roles in achieving this equilibrium. However, from her perspective, she has faith in the institution’s commitment to resilience and transparency in the years to come. 

As the conversation concludes, Amanda offers a glimpse into the future, highlighting the industry’s shift towards the smart supply chain where it is about how to ‘further integrate and enhance systems, process, and technology to enable automation, remove friction, and support all the rights of a supply chain – right item, place, time, and price.’ Resiliency is a component of the smart supply chain. In the fast-evolving landscape of medical supply chains, Stanford Medicine, under her leadership, is an example of innovation through its ability to continually refine its operations and invest in the future to navigate the complexities of the healthcare industry.