Covid-19 has changed perspectives across most industries, but especially in healthcare, where it has exposed significant vulnerabilities in the supply chain. As hospitals have struggled to maintain proper levels of PPE, ventilators, and medications, hospital leaders have shifted their priorities toward supply chain optimization.
In fact, an April survey of 138 hospital leaders found that supply chain optimization is now hospital leaders’ second-highest priority, behind patient safety. The survey also found that supply chain analytics ranked second out of nine technologies that hospital leaders said has increased in importance during the previous four weeks
While hospitals can’t control external factors that affect the healthcare supply chain—such as if a supply chain disruption-inducing event such as Covid-19 occurs, or whether the Strategic National Stockpile has enough emergency supplies on hand—hospitals can make changes to ensure they are more prepared for the next significant disruption.
Here’s how to get started:
- Update and automate current systems. Healthcare is significantly lagging behind other industries when it comes to supply chain management technologies. Transitioning to automated processes will make it easier for hospitals to track and analyze data efficiently. This includes data related to inventory, which will enable faster responses to shortages and more informed use of limited resources.
- Use demand forecasting technology. Supply chain management technology is available that can help hospitals plan for, better manage, and more quickly recover from supply chain disruptions. For example, incident and peak demand forecasting tools can support inventory planning and management during disruption periods and during periods of normalcy.
- Develop contingency plans with increased scope and duration. Covid-19 was novel in many ways, including illustrating that hospitals must have stronger contingency plans in place. Sourcing plans for secondary and tertiary resources should be included in these plans, and hospitals should begin forming coalitions with other organizations to enhance resource-sharing when necessary and possible.
Covid-19 has strained hospitals and resources in a way that no one could have fully predicted. As organizations learn from this crisis, optimizing the supply chain is one approach that all hospital leaders must embrace to mitigate risks and enhance patient safety.
Meanwhile, patients are increasingly aware of the link between supply chain and care Quality. An April survey of 744 consumers by Sage Growth Partners and Black Book Market Research found that only 51% of consumers believe their providers have the supplies and ability to keep supplies stocked to meet their medical needs.
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