Denver Health Foundation Partnership Streamlines Warehouse Operations for Improved Patient Care
May 18, 2022
In the past, when the Denver Health Foundation would receive an in-kind donation or purchase clothing, shoes, or other essential items for patients, these resources would be kept in a large basement storeroom in Pavilion K on the Denver Health campus, adjacent to the Hospital’s Methadone and Suboxone Clinics. When a Denver Health department or staff member identified a patient in need of an item—a coat or shoes for an unhoused member of the community, a replacement pair of sweatpants or socks for a patient being discharged from the emergency department—they would go to the Pav K basement storeroom and pick through the plastic tubs and cardboard boxes to find something appropriate. The process was less than ideal from an efficiency standpoint and hindered the Foundation’s ability to track materials going in and out.
The Foundation began a conversation with Denver Health’s Materials Management department nearly three years ago to discuss options for getting essential items to patients quicker, and to better understand what items needed to be purchased. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Supply Chain Director Andrew Miller and his teammates turned their focus to securing PPE and other urgent materials for the community.
Now that the emergency phase of COVID-19 has subsided, Miller and an enthusiastic team from Materials Management are working with the Foundation to streamline the process of getting donated and purchased essential items to Denver Health patients. Procurement Contract Administrator Ben McNeil came up with the name for the team: Patient Assistance, Clothing, & Essentials (PACE). Other PACE team members include Buyer Michael Howard and Receiving and Logistics Manager Jeremy Jiminez.
The new process was implemented at the beginning of 2022. The PACE team now handles the entirety of sourcing and distributing the Foundation’s purchases as well as storing in-kind donations in Materials Management’s main Quivas Street warehouse instead of using a basement storeroom in a separate building. Storing the Foundation’s donated and purchased items in the same location where other Denver Health materials are distributed from simplifies the entire process and makes it more efficient from a patient care perspective.
“We were frequently chasing inventory to meet the needs of areas like the ADU (Admissions and Discharge Unit) and Outpatient Behavioral Health,” Miller explained. “From a core competency standpoint, this is what supply chain does every day.”
Thanks to this new arrangement, the Denver Health Foundation can maximize monetary donations to purchase needed items and utilize existing Denver Health infrastructure to store and distribute essentials to patients in a timelier fashion.
“We are thrilled to be working with Andrew and his PACE team,” said Foundation Executive Director Crystal Potter Rivera. “This new relationship better serves our goals around equitable contracting through the establishment of purchasing partnerships with local businesses. Most importantly, our patients are better served when the Foundation collaborates with every hospital department to streamline the way we deliver upon our patients’ greatest needs.”
Both the Foundation and Materials Management look at this as a common sense evolution of Denver Health’s efforts to meet patients where they are and release them in a better state than when they arrived.
“The Foundation’s been doing great work for a long time,” said Supply Chain Project Coordinator Mike Stanley, who is also on the PACE team. “They laid the groundwork. Now what we’re trying to do is just keep moving it forward.”
In addition to updating the process for acquiring clothing and other essential items for departments like the ADU, Outpatient Behavioral Health, Care Management, Denver Cares, and Denver Health Outpatient Medical Clinics like those located at the Lowry and Peña Community Health Centers, Materials Management hopes to connect with every department, clinic, and staff member that has opportunities to provide this interaction with patients. By understanding the needs of every team, they can buy more items in bulk and save more money. “We want this process to be user-friendly and sustainable,” said Stanley.
The PACE team has strengthened its relationships with thrift stores like The Arc of Colorado and Goodwill. They are already receiving a deep discount from The Arc—50 cents for every dollar spent—and are working with Goodwill to find ways to save money while obtaining the quality items that Denver Health patients need. They hope to develop these relationships to a point where local partner organizations will begin putting aside items that they know Denver Health needs on a consistent basis—such as sweatpants or coats—without Denver Health having to request them. Another example of revising department roles within the supply chain: clothing bound for clinical teams and patients is routed through Denver Health Laundry Services where Laundry Manager Richard Sena and his team make sure everything is cleaned and sterilized before being distributed.
PACE team member and Gift Shop Manager Lisa Janisch is working with existing vendors to establish discounts for new purchases that the PACE team is unable to source from local thrift store partners. She recently secured a deal for shoes—which are one of the most frequently requested items—that reduced the Denver Health Foundation’s cost from $21 a pair to $7 a pair. Miller is incredibly proud of his team. “I’m grateful for the really good work they’ve done in short order.”
Expanding Denver Health’s Anchor Institution vision by spending locally and sustainably is important to Materials Management, and Miller is excited about this cultural change
“We have shifted spend away from Amazon and Walmart and toward local, mission-aligned partners who take our dollars and reuse those dollars in a way that helps fulfill our mission.” They have already shifted approximately 30% of purchases to community partners and expect that percentage to increase as those relationships strengthen.
Miller hopes that Denver Health can not only use its procurement power to buy local materials, but also to hire from within the community. Future partnerships with organizations like Bayaud Enterprises, which helps people with disabilities and other barriers find employment, are part of the next phase of the supply chain development. The PACE program can employ such community members to assemble care kits of essential items for patients.
Materials Management is proud to be playing a more personal role in patient care through this new process. The PACE team said they feel like they are touching every member of Denver Health’s diverse patient population, whether it’s providing essentials, such as lip balm or baseball caps, to patients being treated at Behavioral Health, or helping people on WIC by providing clothes for the entire family.
“This is why we work at Denver Health,” Miller said.
Rivera is excited for this new phase in the Foundation’s operations. “The collaboration between Materials Management and the Denver Health Foundation will allow us to focus our efforts on increasing fundraising to ensure these essential items are always on hand for our patients,” she said.