There is an acute need for more effective supply chain management in the healthcare sector. With hospitals forced to deal with shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and critical medications, COVID-19 exposed serious weaknesses in U.S. healthcare supply chains. Moreover, in recent years, healthcare organizations have been under increasing pressure to improve profitability and tackle rising supply chain costs. In fact, it has been reported that hospitals could save around $12 million annually by improving hospital supply chain management.
By improving healthcare supply chain management, hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and other stakeholders in the healthcare sector can not only eliminate supply chain inefficiencies and cut unnecessary supply chain expenses but also build agility and resilience into the healthcare value chain. With a more agile and resilient healthcare supply chain, upstream and downstream partners will be able to better respond to sudden events like natural disasters or a global pandemic and work together more effectively to improve patient outcomes and save lives.
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The purpose and importance of healthcare supply chain management
The main objectives of healthcare supply chain management are to increase visibility and efficiency across the supply chain and, in recent months, this has also come to include the strategic goal of improving supply chain agility and resilience—a must during these times of increased uncertainty and volatility in both supply and demand conditions. Getting health supply chain management right means that supply partners are better able to detect and resolve bottlenecks, potential disruptions, and other issues arising anywhere in the end-to-end supply chain. It can help improve patient care and safety while at the same time reining in waste and unnecessary spending.
The main activities involved in healthcare supply chain management include monitoring and supporting the flow of medicines, medical supplies and equipment, and medical services from manufacturer to patient. It includes supply chain quality management and planning, supply chain automation and optimization, and supplier relationship and risk management. When firms leverage digital tools and technology to carry out healthcare supply chain management, it involves using actionable insights obtained from multi-sourced data to continuously adjust and optimize supply chain systems and processes.
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Using digital technology to improve healthcare supply chain management
An increasing number of organizations are adopting new technologies to support and transform supply chain management in the healthcare sector. COVID-19 has spurred digital transformation initiatives in the pharmaceutical industry and far beyond. There are innovative and easy-to-implement tools available now that are helping organizations dismantle their data silos, a long-standing problem in healthcare, and build applications allowing them to integrate supply chain data with clinical data.
Technology like the digital supply network, or cloud-based supply chain networking technology, makes it easier for firms to link up their supply chain systems with electronic health records (EHR) and other clinical systems. By connecting supply chain data with electronic medical records and other related data sets, firms can standardize, streamline, and automate time-consuming business processes—thereby lowering costs while also improving patient outcomes—and establish a clinically integrated supply chain that is patient-centered and proactive.
Another technology useful for healthcare supply chain management is multienterprise work management software. These applications enable patient-centric orchestration across the end-to-end healthcare value chain. They help teams work together across functions internal and external to the organization to further increase visibility into supply chain processes and enhance supply chain resiliency. They help supply partners build trusting and mutually beneficial business relationships through the sharing of strategic objectives and focused collaboration. Trading partners can share information and actionable insights through standardized, secure, and permissioned interfaces and work together to resolve the issues currently plaguing healthcare supply chains.
The advantages of digitizing healthcare supply chain management
The connected supply chain, or supply chain 4.0, is one that is robust and resilient, capable of adapting quickly to changing circumstances and recovering faster from sudden disruptions. By leveraging the latest healthcare supply chain technology, healthcare organizations are digitally transforming healthcare supply chain management, making it easier for them and their trading partners to streamline and optimize the supply chain. They are using this technology to obtain real-time, granular visibility into their supply chains from end to end, allowing them to identify and deal with potential issues and obstacles early and pivot quickly when the situation demands.
By linking supply chain and clinical data, they can use healthcare supply chain analytics to more accurately forecast demand, optimize inventory planning and management, and respond more effectively to changing market conditions. By fostering increased communication and collaboration across the healthcare supply chain, digital supply chain management tools can also help boost productivity and speed time to market. And by increasing trust and transparency across the supply network, they enhance supply chain resiliency, helping to create a healthcare value chain that can better respond to and recover from the challenges of future pandemics and other public health emergencies.
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The future of healthcare supply chain management
A digital supply chain network like TraceLink's, which is designed to handle the complexity of healthcare supply chain management, offers organizations in this rapidly growing sector the transparency and end-to-end visibility they need—through real-time information flows, communication tools, and collaborative workflows—to manage a complicated and expanding network of trading partners. It can help them identify and resolve supply and demand issues early and before patients and their bottom line are adversely impacted. And because it lives on the cloud, network members get the scalability and flexibility they need to incorporate and leverage robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, predictive analytics, and other cutting-edge supply chain 4.0 technologies.
TraceLink's multienterprise work management software further assists organizations in driving joint innovation and creating patient-centric supply chain networks. Supply partners can work together more effectively to orchestrate patient outcomes in new ways and develop new digital operating models suitable for the future of healthcare. Healthcare organizations can leverage TraceLink's multienterprise work management applications and digital supply network to ensure that each and every patient gets the treatments they need when and where they need them. Network members are empowered to work together for the greater good, and global populations get improved access to life-saving medications and better care made possible through digitized healthcare supply chain management.
Healthcare Supply Chain Management FAQs
What is healthcare supply chain management?
It refers to the monitoring and management of the flow of medicines, medical products, and healthcare services from manufacturer to patient and helps ensure that healthcare providers and patients get the medications and treatments they need when and where they need them.
Why is healthcare supply chain management important?
It is important for businesses in the healthcare sector because it helps to reduce costs, increase supply chain efficiency and, depending on how it is implemented, build greater agility and resilience into the healthcare value chain. It is critical for patients because it helps ensure that they have access to the medications and treatments they need.
What is the goal of healthcare supply chain management?
Its goal is to increase visibility and efficiency across and improve the agility and responsiveness of healthcare supply chains. It is fundamental to ensuring that patients and healthcare providers get the medications and treatments they need when they need them.
What are the benefits of digitizing healthcare supply chain management?
It provides healthcare organizations with greater visibility into their supply chains, facilitates real-time data sharing and seamless communication between supply partners, enhances collaboration, and simplifies the process of integrating supply chain and clinical data, thereby improving demand forecast accuracy and inventory management and driving better outcomes for patients.