Former healthcare admin tackles supply chain inefficiency

By AMBER FISHER
@Amber_L_Fisher

CHICAGO—If there’s one person who won’t put up with disorganized hospital supply shelves and never knowing when supplies will arrive, it’s Jami Youmans.

Yet the former healthcare administrator says she sees it all too often.

“You’ve got your basic hospitals that have no way of even seeing where their (supply) boxes are, they have no way of understanding what is in there,” she says.

Youmans and her business partner Kyle Hathaway founded VantEdge OneGroup, a Chicago-based healthcare solutions consulting firm. The firm connects tech startups with healthcare systems, and works with the systems to improve their supply chains using cutting-edge technology.

“My partner came from Wall Street and has been an entrepreneur his entire life.

He entered into health care about two years ago from the supply chain side, focused primarily on inventories,” Youmans says.

She says Hathaway shared her passion for improving and simplifying healthcare supply chains.

“It’s the second-largest expense, it’s the most manageable expense in a hospital, and it’s the area that nobody has tackled,” Youmans says.

“You look at it from an outsider’s perspective and you’re like ‘this is absurd’, but the other piece of it is there is a lack of talent, there’s a lack of interest in this particular area in healthcare, and it’s so impactful.”

Youmans has worked as a supply chain administrator for the Loyola University Health System, and a project manager for BJC Healthcare in St. Louis.

“I came from inside the hospital, as a hospital administrator, understanding all the complexities across the board,” she says, “and just lived and breathed the entire inefficiencies of the system—from the state system to the national system—where I sat on a couple of boards, just listening, trying to understand the issues that we were trying to solve.”

VantEdge One Group is working with several tech startups, including Z5 Health.

“We help them get to market by partnering with them, either by giving them a reseller-type agreement, or we’ll actually license their technology to integrate into our engagements,” Youmans explains.

Z5 Health is a company that provides healthcare centers with an iPad-based inventory count—software Youmans says is badly needed in hospitals.

“The idea, if you were to walk into some of these facilities, is you would think of a really organized warehouse-type scenario—that’s not the case. We refer to it as ‘hoarder’s paradise,’ ” Youmans explains.

The iPad inventory system keeps track of all costly hospital supplies: catheters, surgical gloves, metal screws, sutures, and anything that’s implantable in the body. The system also does automatic re-ordering of supplies. Because the cost of the supply items constantly fluctuates, the items don’t have barcodes, so the iPads have to be able to physically scan the items.

“To have a standard bar code database is incredibly labor intensive,” Youmans explains.

In only a year and a half, VantEdge One Group has expanded rapidly. Youmans says the firm has taken on clients in New York, Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

“We’re getting dozens of new clients on a monthly basis,” she explains.

Youmans says her firm works with a range of healthcare systems, from those that are more advanced and streamlined, to ones that need a lot of help getting up to speed.

“Our goal is to help everybody that’s down here just move up the spectrum incrementally.”

Youmans says her firm has made $600,000 year-to-date, and is on track to sign $3 million worth of contracts by the end of the year. And she says there’s lots of room to grow.

“Three of some of the top supply chains in the country, in going through our modeling with (our) distribution partner, have $1.5 billion worth of spend.”

One of the systems VantEdge One Group is currently working to improve is the Lourdes Health System in New Jersey.

“Now it’s part of Trinity Health System, they’re a client—they’re a hospital system, and they are struggling with supply chain management.”

Youmans says she’s also helping healthcare systems cut costs.

“You have layers and layers of middlemen,” she says. “A lot of this can be automated because it’s just middlemen managing the components, when industry, on the flip side, is going directly to consumer.”

Youmans says Uber and Amazon are perfect examples of companies that cut out the middlemen.

“Everyone is able to do this, so why can’t health care do it?”

Youmans says her firm has partnered with a multinational distribution company—whose name she’s unable to disclose at this point—to connect it directly into health care, something the company hasn’t been able to accomplish to date.

“The idea is to disrupt the traditional distribution model,” she says. “So we’re on a three-year roadmap to getting the full integration completed.”

Youmans says VantEdge One Group’s rapid expansion means more hands are needed on deck.

“We have three people—we’re hiring about 10,” she says. Youmans says the rapid growth has been both exhilarating and challenging.

“I’m getting heart palpitations right now,” she laughs.