John Strong has been instrumental in furthering the professionalism, ethics and practice of the healthcare supply chain. He has helped raise the level of supply chain – elevating it from the basement to the executive suite. As an honest and ethical business executive he has ensured that his dealings have been the same. He has been a role model and mentor to hundreds. He has worked with purchasing staffs, clinicians, physicians and C-suite administrators on improved practices in the healthcare supply chain.
Strong is a seasoned healthcare leader with the ability to effectively bring out staff creativity and their desire for excellence, while allowing them to grow and meet their career objectives. He has an excellent ability to collaborate with physicians and clinical staff to develop strategy and achieve goals and objectives across the organization. He is a good strategic and tactical planner, able to integrate budget demands to drive desired results with sound ability to build strategic partnerships and long-term relationships with diverse organizations and groups. Strong has an excellent knowledge of national healthcare issues and their impact on local healthcare providers. In addition, he is a skilled facilitator of change and negotiates with flexible program implementation and project management skills.
January 2011-present: Principal, John Strong LLC, Fontana, WI. Strong provides healthcare strategy and consulting services with an emphasis on working with manufacturers, distributors and service providers on national account contracting, program and service development and customer support functions. He currently works with two nationally recognized clients and am an investor and developer of a new concept for capital equipment marketing services for healthcare called OpenMarkets.
October 2008-January 2011: Senior Vice President, Nexera Inc. and Greater New York Hospital Association and Affiliates, New York. Strong was responsible for leadership, sales and marketing of the Managed Services Division of a company that provides outsourced supply chain and related support services to 19 hospitals and health systems with more than 5,100 beds. He interacted with hospital and health system leaders, physicians and clinicians to proactively develop projects and manage accounts, and directly supervised five vice presidents responsible for services at those 19 acute care healthcare facilities.
President, World Product Centre Marketing, LLC, New York. Strong oversaw a proposed 60-story center for healthcare training, education, conferences and supplier showcasing of medical devices, located in Manhattan. He worked with real estate developers, investors and healthcare providers to create a sales and marketing strategy and sales platform through research, presentations and meetings with more than 350 medical device manufacturers and suppliers.
May 1998-October 2008: President and Chief Executive Officer, Consorta Inc., Schaumburg, IL. Strong was responsible for all company strategic planning, leadership and program development of the nationally recognized group purchasing cooperative owned by 12 leading Catholic healthcare systems. Consorta was formed in 1998 to provide contracting and supply chain services to approximately 350 acute care hospitals, 3,500 non-acute healthcare providers and generated revenue of approximately $80 million annually. Strong reported to a 12-member Board of Directors and serves as an ex-officio member of the Board. At Consorta, Strong worked collaboratively with our team to develop and implement an annual education conference attracting more than 1,000 attendees and offering CEU credit in 12 disciplines. Under his watch, purchasing volume from approximately $1.2 billion to more than $5 billion annually resulting in more than $350 million in acquisition cost savings.
March 1997-April 1998: Senior Vice President, Concepts in Healthcare, Inc., Ashland, MA. At the leading independent healthcare consulting firm focusing on healthcare provider supply chain solutions and national accounts sales, Strong was responsible for business development and program delivery. He developed and implemented continuous quality improvement strategies for large healthcare systems, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and improved efficiencies. He also independently sold more than $1 million of national accounts and business strategy consulting services to leading healthcare manufacturers and distributors.
December 1990-February 1997: Senior executive, Premier Inc., and heritage company Premier Health Alliance, Westchester, IL. Premier emerged as a national healthcare alliance owned by more than 200 major healthcare systems representing over 1,400 hospitals with more than 250,000 beds.
Strong served as Chief Operating Officer, Premier Purchasing Partners LP, responsible for all contracting, member services and marketing for the national group purchasing program from December 1995 to February 1997. He led a staff of 85, directed more than $8 billion in procurement annually, and developed and managed strategic alliances with hundreds of healthcare suppliers. He also collaborated with senior leadership at some of America’s largest health systems to merge three health alliances into one – American Healthcare Systems, Premier Health Alliance and SunHealth Alliance. After the merger, Strong developed contract renegotiation strategies, resulting in cost savings up to 35 percent on individual contracts.
Strong served as Senior Vice President, Premier Health Alliance, where he was responsible for leadership and strategic direction of supply chain and pharmacy programs, non-acute supply chain programs and international programs from August 1993 to December 1995. Under his watch, purchasing program volume increased from $525 million to $2.2 billion, with more than $150 million in documented purchase contract savings for members. Strong also assisted in the development of a relationship with the Government Medical Center in Moscow, Russia, to assist Russian healthcare providers to earn hard currency for services.
Strong served as Vice President, Materials Management, Premier Health Alliance from December 1990 to August 1993. He provided leadership and brought cultural change to the division, increasing focus on member satisfaction. He enhanced member cost savings by more than 50 percent in the first year, while expanding programs and services more than 22 percent, leading to increased member satisfaction.
From October 1980 to December 1990, Strong was a senior executive at Lutheran General Hospital (LGH), Park Ridge, IL, a $550 million health system with two acute care hospitals, and a variety of non acute services.
Strong launched and served as President, Healthcare Materials Corp. (HMC), Northbrook, IL, from January 1985 to December 1990. HMC was a subsidiary of LGH that provided supply chain services, including management, procurement, low-unit-of-measure distribution and printing to all owned facilities and more than 900 physician offices. The company also provided outsourced supply chain services and consulting to more than 40 acute care hospitals nationally, as well as durable medical equipment to service more than 3,600 patients. HMC ultimately was acquired by Owens & Minor Inc., a publicly traded medical products distributor. At HMC, Strong directed a team through initial business planning, board approval and capitalization to create the company.
Strong was Chairman, Division of Materials Management, Lutheran General Hospital, a 700-bed tertiary teaching hospital, where he managed Purchasing, Off-Site Warehousing, Receiving, Medical Supply Unit, Central Processing, Printing, Management Engineering, Volunteer Services and Real Estate Property Management, from October 1980 to January 1985. Strong developed and implemented programs that yielded documented cost savings of nearly $16 million during a five-year time period. He also worked closely with physicians to develop negotiation teams for large purchases of capital equipment, and to evaluate widely used medical devices. He implemented internal customer service programs to quantify user perception of services and tailor supply chain programs to user needs.
Strong was Director of Material Management at St. Therese Hospital, Waukegan, IL, a 420-bed community hospital from October 1977 to October 1980. As the department director, Strong was responsible for Purchasing, Receiving, Distribution, Central Processing, and Medical Supply functions.
Strong started his career at Lakeland Hospital, Elkhorn, WI as a Purchasing Agent in May 1974. He was responsible for Purchasing and General Stores in this 99-bed community hospital.
Strong earned a Master’s Degree, Business Administration, with Distinction, in 1981 from DePaul University, Chicago, with an emphasis on Human Resource Management and Marketing. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree, Business Administration, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, with a comprehensive major in Management in 1974.
Strong has successfully led two mergers involving three different GPOs, including Premier and Consorta. During these ambiguous periods he led by example and ensured not only operations but also communications continued uninterrupted, stressing them as key components of the mergers. He consistently considered the impact of employees and other stakeholders during these activities.
At Greater New York Hospital Association, Strong interacted with hospital and health system leaders, physicians and clinicians to proactively develop projects and manage accounts; and directly supervised and directed five Vice Presidents responsible for services at 19 acute care healthcare facilities.
At Consorta he worked collaboratively with team members to develop and implement an annual education conference attracting more than 1,000 attendees and offering CEU credit in 12 disciplines. Under his leadership purchasing volume grew from approximately $1.2 billion to more than $5 billion annually, resulting in more than $350 million in acquisition cost savings. He also developed and implemented continuous quality improvement strategies for large healthcare systems resulting in improved customer satisfaction and improved efficiencies.
At Concepts In Healthcare, Strong was able to successfully work “on both sides of the desk” by working on hospital supply chain projects as well as medical products manufacturers and distributors on national accounts and strategy projects.
At Premier, Strong led a staff of 85, directed more than $8 billion in procurement annually, and developed and managed strategic alliances with hundreds of healthcare suppliers. He collaborated with senior leadership at some of America’s largest health systems to merge three health alliances into one. He also developed contract renegotiation strategies after the merger, resulting in cost savings of up to 35 percent on individual contracts. And he assisted in the development of a relationship with the Government Medical Center in Moscow, Russia, to assist Russian healthcare providers to earn hard currency for services.
At Lutheran General Hospital Strong developed a distribution and physician supply business yielding the third-largest share of the Chicago physician supply market. And he developed and implemented one of the country’s first low-unit-of-measure inventory management systems, now in wide use nationally. He worked closely with physicians to develop negotiation teams for large purchases of capital equipment, and to evaluate widely used medical devices. He implemented internal customer service programs to quantify user perception of services and tailor supply chain programs to user needs.
Selected Presentations and Publications
Strong has spoken extensively locally, regionally and nationally for more than 30 years, including, but not limited to, the following, and has published independently and as part of organizations for the same.
What do you think about Bellwether League Inc.’s mission and philosophy and how do you feel about becoming an Honoree?
I am humbled and feel very privileged and excited to be Bellwether Honoree for 2011. I believe that it is essential that as a profession we grow leaders who can develop and mentor future leaders, and that especially excites me about Bellwether’s mission.
What attracted and motivated you to join the healthcare supply chain management field when you did?
I became interested in healthcare supply chain working at my local hospital while I was still in high school, and I changed my major to business in college so I could possibly pursue a career in “hospital purchasing” (as it was called at the time). I found it both interesting and rewarding because of the positive impact it could have on good patient care, as well as using good business practices. I’ve been blessed to have a career that took me into almost all elements of the healthcare supply chain, including materials management in acute care hospitals, distribution, group purchasing and consulting. That variety has kept me really motivated over the years.
For what one contribution would you like to be most remembered?
I hope that over the years I have been able to mentor folks that I worked with, to help them grow in their careers in healthcare supply chain management. It gives me a great feeling to look out in the industry and see some of the people I worked with in the past now in senior roles and really doing new and innovative things for the practice of healthcare supply chain management.
If you were to encourage people – either outside of healthcare or just out of school – to enter healthcare supply chain management and strive to be a future Bellwether League Inc. Honoree, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to start by always trying to do the right thing. That includes learning from your mistakes, working with your staff and colleagues as a team, recognizing that team effort, and resisting the urge to take the easy way out. I think that it is especially important to be a leader within your organization, and being an effective leader sometimes involves stepping outside your comfort zone and taking risks. I’d also suggest that they try to find a mentor — someone that they can talk to, and that can provide a sense of direction for them as their career progresses.
What is the one industry challenge you would like to see solved in your lifetime?
I’d like to see one common numbering and nomenclature system for all medical products and devices that can be universally used by all healthcare providers and manufacturers without the need to constantly “scrub” data to make it usable. As an industry, we have been trying to do this since the early 1970s. (Remember the first government-sponsored system that included a four-digit manufacturer identifier followed by their product code?) It would be nice to think that healthcare, as one of the largest forces in the economy, can catch-up to the grocery and food service industry.
How important is effective and innovative supply chain management during tough economic times?
It is absolutely vital. I believe that every healthcare supply chain executive should try to make a concerted effort to “educate” their C-suite, and get them to look beyond the usual “quick-fixes” of demanding lower unit prices. Supply chain should lead the way in introducing and providing effective techniques that yield far greater value, such as value analysis, in their own organization. Most unit prices get wrung out of budget reductions early on, and most of the real value supply chain can now bring lies in the cost-in-use of various procedures and the products that accompany them.