The Five Most Overused Words in the Healthcare Supply Chain

“We just don’t have the bandwidth to make a mission critical pivot in the process to disrupt our bottom-line. We’re heads-down in creating synergies, now.  Let’s talk about this offline.”


“We don’t have the time to make important changes to the process, to improve our profits. We’re super busy working together right now. Let’s grab a cup of coffee later and talk about it.”

How do people stumble into using such terms that are completely meaningless? I guess it’s a whole group acceptance thing. People tend to want to not sound bland and conventional. Though you have to admit, the use of these terms can make you roll your eyes. Not because of the silliness of their meanings, but often times, people don’t even use them in the right context. Nevertheless, some babble-lingo is hard to say with a straight face.

So, just for fun, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what words are being overused in healthcare supply chain and ecommerce. After scouring the net and reading countless articles, I ran a textual analysis of supply and ecommerce-related pages. Some terms surprised me and others – well, not. With some, I confess, I’ve caught myself using them as well [cringe].

  1. Sustainability – This word is beginning to give me “the blurry eyes.” It has become a catchall to mean, “something good.” You can’t measure it or rate it, so what does it really mean?  Ask 3 people and you’ll get 3 different answers. But it does have the appeal of sounding noble and specific, though, not being either.
  1. Lean healthcare journey – This term is not about sneaking in a few minutes of yoga, but applying the “Toyota Way” to your supply chain. Why not come out and just say it’s a process to improve efficiencies to rid excess waste that doesn’t produce value? If not, you just may end up getting confused between your yoga flow and material flow.
  1. Continuous performance improvement – Just like lean, this one is also perhaps one of the most meaningless terms out there. But the pitfall is getting tangled in processes to make continuous performance improvements “sustainable” [just joking]. Talk about specific needs to change and improvements rather than talking about processes and processing the various processes.
  1. Collaboration – A word just as cringe-inducing as the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. Oh, I can hear it now. Collaboration in itself is a critical element in improving operational efficiencies. I’m all for it, but everyone from the provider to the supplier and vice-versa, top-down, bottom-up, cross-functionally, needs to make a serious commitment and be open to change. It’s the only way to see trust and real value born from a partnership. Otherwise, it’s all talk.
  1. Just in Time (JIT) – I once read of a company [not in healthcare] who stocked their warehouse a month in advance and was sooo proud that they were practicing “Just in Time.” Well, er, NOT. Though there are a lot of examples we can learn from about efficiencies from other industries, this is not one of them. I hope you get my drift.

Other serious offenders are: value stream, transparency, end-to-end visibility, curated marketplace, streamline, Kanban distribution systems, innovation – with the list that seemed never ending.

These buzzwords have unfortunately normalized some speech habits that lead to lazy thinking. Oh, this has got to stop. And no, I won’t be telling you which terms I’ve used, since I just wiped them out of my vocabulary.

Which words do you hear around your “ecosystem?”

Leave a Reply