The Covid – 19 has changed the fundamentals of healthcare management. Before the pandemic, if you asked any CEO of a healthcare organization about his top priority, the answer would almost always be ‘patient care. But today their answer is likely to be supply chain. This was also borne out by a survey of hospital leaders by a leading research and marketing firm in the US. Indeed, in the post-pandemic world, most healthcare providers have struggled to manage their supply chains and stocks thanks to the disruptions in manufacturing and shipping. The increasing freight charges, which eventually add to the cost of care have also emerged as a major challenge for healthcare providers looking to manage their supplies efficiently without adversely affecting their bottom-line.
In no other field is the supply chain so critical as in healthcare. Disruptions in the supply chain can lead to heightened concerns among patients about their healthcare providers’ ability to meet their medical needs. This loss of trust has dire consequences for hospitals. But thankfully, most hospitals — whether standalone or part of a chain—are realizing that in the post-Covid world, they need to relook at supply chain management strategies.
Having worked with top healthcare providers across the continents during the pandemic, I got a sense of why many hospitals were caught unawares as far as the disruption in their supply chain is concerned. Many of them responded by increasing inventory levels to deal with demand fluctuations and disruptions. But I am afraid that may not be the answer – certainly not the right answer. Hospitals need to come up with technology-driven sustainable supply chain strategies because the global shipping crisis is far from over and the consequent supply chain disruptions may continue much longer than we thought. I offer the following suggestions on how to deal with the supply chain crisis.
Draw a whole new contingency plan: While every healthcare provider has some sort of contingency plans, but those have been proved inadequate by the COVID-19. So, remake your sourcing strategies, and it should include forming partnerships with reliable suppliers that have global footprints and a robust delivery system.
Because those with robust delivery logistics management systems can help offset the rising freight costs. So, the bottom line is, focus on finding suppliers with whom you do not face challenges relating to product availability, deliveries, supply-chain inefficiencies, and service of equipment.
Make pricing strategy for medical supplies: Create procurement and pricing systems that keep track of information on supplies and suppliers. You may need to take a relook at your old supply contracts and see what the competitors have to offer. A better supply chain can make a big difference to your bottom line without you having to comprise the quality of care.
Automate supply chain management: Automate your supply chain and inventory management so as to be able to respond fast to shortages and use resources prudently.
Use AI-based analytics to forecast demand: The time has come for healthcare providers to adopt AI-based analytics to forecast both short-term and long-term demand.
Engage in systematic de-bottlenecking: Find out not just the existing bottlenecks in your supply chain management but try and identify potential bottlenecks