Healthcare Supply Chain Needs Technology Upgrades

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, healthcare executives have committed to bringing greater levels of automation and digitization to their supply chains. 

By Mackenna Moralez

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part article. Two read part one, please click here.  

The average health system uses 20-30 supply chain platforms/apps throughout their entire business, and COVID really tested each facility’s limits. Since the start of the pandemic, healthcare executives have committed to bringing greater levels of automation and digitization to better build resilient, agile operations that can withstand disruptions. These efforts to upgrade new technology and processes will enable healthcare facilities to respond more nimbly to changes or new COVID variants.  

“For over a decade I’ve been talking to supply chain managers about the importance of incorporating technology-based solutions, including AI and machine learning, into their supply chain management to mitigate risks. It can often be a tough sell: lack of budget; lack of executive buy-in or understanding; and integration challenges all play a role,” Bindiya Vakil, CEO and co-founder of Resilinc says. “Now, on the heels of disruptions caused by COVID-19, geopolitics, and supply shortages the conversation has been brought to the forefront.” 

With new technologies, facilities managers can have real-time access to cost, utilization and outcomes. Not only can these upgrades create greater efficiencies on day-to-day maintenance, it can also reduce the burden on healthcare staff by providing necessary insights that can improve decision making and financial outcomes.  

“For today’s increasingly complex, global, and fast-paced supply chains, the data curated by AI and machine learning far exceeds any person’s ability to absorb, analyze and act strategically,” Vakil says. “Especially when disruption strikes or is on the horizon. AI platforms can identify emerging risks and opportunities; they can provide valuable insights for decisions ranging from sourcing strategies to product development to playbooks. And, in the current business environment — where supply chain disruption will be the rule — supply chain AI can drive needed agility and resiliency across an enterprise.” 

Read Next: How Self-Distribution Can Cut Supply Chain Costs in Healthcare

While emerging technologies aim to make things easier on companies, end users can still spend 20 percent of their time on supply chain activities that could be used for facility up time, O’Daffer says.  

Supply chain disruptions can not only be detrimental to the business, but it can also greatly affect patients and residents. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages have caused patients to have to extend the use of lifesaving products beyond their recommended lifespan, putting them at higher risk of infection or even death. As the dust begins to settle on the pandemic, the healthcare industry has an opportunity to learn from these challenges and have a secure plan in place in the event of an emergency. 

“When COVID-19 hit it opened the eyes of healthcare systems and GPOs to the fact that they need to know where the items they source are produced,” says Vakil. “This includes the raw materials and tiny parts that go into equipment. Some companies, for example, have implemented a regional sourcing model to spread production and mitigate the risk that comes with overdependence on one supplier in one country. For others virtually everything has become about managing risk.” 

In times of tragedy, healthcare facilities cannot close down. They are the lifeline that people need in order to survive. While we can’t predict or prevent these events, facilities can bring more resiliency to their operations by investing in their supply chain to respond to unexpected spikes. The supply chain will never break, it will only bend to the pressures that it is put under. By leaning on technology, facilities can better anticipate and match supply and demand to create more personalized care pathways. 

“Toward that end, suppliers, distributors and providers will need to collaborate more closely to create greater visibility into key data,” Luoma says. “Sharing data will resolve some of the routine operational issues that occur, such as identifying and resolving issues around price, part and unit of measure. More ambitiously, data sharing will help suppliers and providers not only improve forecasting but become more agile in their response to shifting demand.” 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor with the facility market. 

July 27, 2022

Topic Area: Information Technology , Maintenance and Operations

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