While the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of healthcare supply chains, exposing vulnerabilities that resulted in shortages of PPE and other critical medical supplies, it has also been a catalyst for digital transformation and innovation in health supply chain management. Forward-thinking firms in the healthcare sector are embracing this moment as an opportunity to invest in new technology and leverage digital tools that can help strengthen and improve the resilience of their supply chains.
Healthcare organizations that have learned hard lessons from the crisis realize that they must let go of old ways of thinking—a mindset focused on just-in-time supply chains and supply chain optimization for the sake of maximizing cost-efficiency above all else. Lean, brittle supply chains and poor inventory management can result in severe drug and medical supply shortages. Now is the time to adopt a mindset that is focused on supply chain flexibility, agility, and resilience, and on building the healthcare supply chains of the future: strong, adaptive supply chains that can handle sudden spikes in demand and withstand unpredictable disruptions resulting from a pandemic, natural disaster, or cyberattack.
Learn how other healthcare organizations are building resilience to supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. Download the IDC Whitepaper: Solving the Pandemic Pharma Supply Chain Struggle.
Trends in and affecting the healthcare supply chain
Even before the challenges of COVID-19 forced business leaders and governments to reassess healthcare supply chains, the healthcare ecosystem was already undergoing a significant shift in priorities. In recent years, healthcare organizations have started focusing on healthcare supply chain management to not just improve the efficiency of supply chains but also obtain greater visibility into the end-to-end supply chain. They began seeking ways to use supply chain data and healthcare supply chain analytics to streamline ordering, improve demand planning and inventory management, and inform purchasing contract decision making. They started to see the reliable, efficient supply chain as a competitive differentiator.
Another factor affecting healthcare supply chains is a trend towards placing the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare providers, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and other organizations involved in the medical supply chain are looking for ways to work collaboratively to deliver orchestrated patient outcomes. As personalized medicine and cell and gene therapies become more prevalent in the sector, healthcare supply chains are likely to become increasingly patient-focused and complex. And with the many changes brought about by the pandemic, including the expanded use of telemedicine and remote working practices, healthcare organizations are finding more reasons than ever before to invest in digital technology and digital transformation initiatives.
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Building resiliency into healthcare supply chains
Forward-thinking firms are working to improve the resilience of healthcare supply chains in several ways, first, by carrying out comprehensive supply chain risk management and risk mitigation initiatives. Second, they are diversifying their supply chain portfolio, building capacity buffers into their storage and manufacturing facilities, and emphasizing the importance of strategic and long-term supplier collaboration.
They are shortening planning cycles and finding ways to develop and manufacture products faster. They are adopting more resilient manufacturing and logistics practices leveraging AI and robotics. And they are investing in data infrastructure to obtain greater visibility into the end-to-end supply chain. They are using digital technology to break down data silos—to facilitate seamless communication, real-time information sharing, and mutually beneficial collaborative workflows spanning the healthcare value chain. They are turning to multienterprise, digital supply chain networks to build a future-proof healthcare supply chain.
Using digital technology to create agile, resilient, patient-centric healthcare supply chains
Healthcare organizations seeking to create a truly patient-centric and resilient supply chain are turning to the digital supply network—cloud-based supply chain networking technology—and multienterprise work management applications. Digital supply networks not only provide greater visibility across the end-to-end supply chain but provide members with a channel through which to share and access a continuous flow of information and actionable insights that can be used to continually improve supply chain processes. Because it lives on the cloud, the digital supply network is also a suitable platform on which to build advanced AI-augmented analytics tools and other applications that will enable stakeholders to take a more sophisticated approach to supply chain planning and risk management.
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Building the connected healthcare supply chain
TraceLink has created the world's largest network of healthcare supply chain partners with over 275,000 members. By leveraging TraceLink's digital supply network and multienterprise work management software designed specifically for the healthcare sector, organizations can enable seamless information sharing and collaborative workflows with upstream and downstream trading partners. Members can rapidly design and deploy network orchestration and analytics applications that enable patient-centric orchestration across the healthcare value chain. They can work together to resolve complex issues affecting the healthcare supply chain, drive innovation, and make sure that patients and healthcare providers get the medications and medical products they need when and where they need them. By helping to build the connected healthcare supply chain, TraceLink's digital partner ecosystem is helping improve patient outcomes and empowering healthcare organizations with the tools and technology they need to take on the future.
Healthcare Supply Chain FAQs
What is the healthcare supply chain?
It refers to all the organizations and activities involved in developing and delivering medications, medical supplies and equipment, and medical services to patients and includes hospitals, healthcare providers, drug and medical device manufacturers, insurance companies, pharmacies, and regulatory agencies.
Why is the purpose of the healthcare supply chain?
Its main goal is to ensure that patients and the healthcare providers and pharmacies that serve them get the medicines and medical supplies they need when and where they need them. Its effective management helps to improve patient outcomes and save lives.
How can you make healthcare supply chains more resilient?
You can make healthcare supply chains more resilient by diversifying your base of suppliers and logistic partners, building extra capacity into your manufacturing facilities, and using automation technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) to augment manufacturing and logistics processes. You can also use digital networking technology to get real-time visibility into the end-to-end supply chain and multienterprise work management applications to foster collaboration and enable you and your trading partners to detect and resolve incidents faster and recover from supply chain disruption quicker.