COVID-19 exposed several weaknesses in the US medical supply chain, including a lack of coordinated information sharing. The crisis also revealed that it is crucial for all parties in the healthcare supply chain to find ways to share data, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively to ensure that clinicians get the supplies they need to serve patients.
Forward-thinking healthcare organizations are leveraging healthcare supply chain technology to support information sharing and foster collaboration among pharmaceutical and medical device manufactures, wholesale distributors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other parties in the supply chain. This includes digital tools designed to break down communication silos between supply chain partners and orchestrate positive patient outcomes. Organizations are now adopting new and innovative types of healthcare supply chain technology to improve supply chain visibility, modernize healthcare supply chain management, and achieve higher levels of collaboration with trading partners to build a more robust and resilient medical supply chain.
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The need for healthcare supply chain technology
Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, healthcare executives were confronting an array of supply chain challenges. Drug shortages and the threat of counterfeit medications, which are only two of the many challenges they face, have worsened with the pandemic. As a result, the crisis served as a catalyst for change, driving organizations to invest in healthcare supply chain technology that can increase supply chain visibility and improve the resilience of the healthcare value chain.
Manufacturers, distributors, healthcare systems, and hospitals can use healthcare supply chain technology to obtain greater transparency across the supply networks on which they depend, enabling them to improve inventory management and demand planning. Supply chain leaders and clinical teams can use this technology to improve hospital supply chain management by streamlining workflows, tracking and monitoring key hospital supply chain metrics, and more closely coordinating efforts to improve supply chain efficiency.
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Using technology to better manage the healthcare supply chain
There are a variety of automation technologies and software tools that healthcare organizations can use to streamline and enhance supply chain management. Some of the more well-known and cutting-edge forms of healthcare supply chain technology include:
- Radio frequency identification technology: RFID tags and RFID-enabled smart cabinets allow for real-time monitoring and tracking of products to streamline inventory management, improve the charge capture process, and help prevent shortages.
- Internet of things (IoT) sensors: Connected medical devices and equipment allow machines and systems to continuously exchange data, thereby providing healthcare organizations with updated information on equipment performance and supply chain processes.
- Advanced data analytics: Healthcare supply chain analytics applications enable healthcare providers to monitor critical healthcare supply chain metrics and usage patterns and obtain insights they can use to better forecast demand, improve efficiency, and optimize inventory.
- Digital twins: Using a digital simulation or virtual replica of the supply chain, healthcare organizations can analyze multiple potential supply scenarios, assess the capacity of existing and alternative sources, and identify opportunities for process optimization.
The benefits of healthcare supply chain technology
By leveraging these and other forms of healthcare supply chain technology, organizations in the healthcare sector can obtain end-to-end supply chain visibility, which is critical for improving supply chain efficiency and agility. These tools can be used to help health systems streamline inventory management, proactively prepare for potential disruption or spikes in demand, and ensure that they are able provide the highest quality care to their patients.
Healthcare supply chain technology can be used by pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers to access real-time data on all aspects of the supply chain. This enables them to more accurately forecast demand, improve process efficiency and product quality, better manage supplier risk, and shorten lead times. Healthcare organizations can use this technology to create a stronger, more responsive supply chain that can withstand disruption, adapt rapidly to change, and support the needs of healthcare providers and patients even during a public health crisis.
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Building a more resilient healthcare supply chain with a digital supply network
One of the most transformative forms of healthcare supply chain technology is the digital supply network, an integrated supply network that lives on the cloud and connects organizations, systems, teams, and people. It facilitates real-time data sharing and seamless communication, thereby enabling frictionless coordination across the supply chain. It provides participating organizations with granular visibility across supply relationships and across the production lifecycle. When paired with multienterprise work management applications, it enables firms to orchestrate shared workflows and business processes, thereby supporting collaboration and joint value creation.
By improving transparency and promoting collaboration across the healthcare sector, TraceLink's Digital Network Platform, which includes over 280,000 members, is helping drug and medical supply manufacturers, distributors, and hospitals come together to build a more efficient and resilient network of healthcare supply chain companies.
Healthcare Supply Chain Technology FAQs
What is healthcare supply chain technology?
"Healthcare supply chain technology" refers to the digital tools that firms in the healthcare sector use to streamline, automate, and enhance supply chain management. They help healthcare organizations better manage the flow of medications and supplies across the supply chain to reduce costs and make sure that healthcare providers get the supplies they need to care for patients.
What are the benefits of using a digital supply network in the healthcare sector?
Digital supply networks facilitate communication and collaboration among trading partners. They also provide healthcare organizations with granular visibility across the supply chain, enabling them to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies, more accurately forecast demand, proactively predict and prevent potential disruption, and improve on-time, in-full delivery of medications and medical supplies.
How can blockchain technology be used in the healthcare supply chain?
As a digital ledger, blockchain technology can potentially be used to support secure information sharing about medications and medical supplies and help ensure security and accountability in the transfer of products in the healthcare supply chain.