Healthcare supply chains are large, and many healthcare organizations are behind other sectors in terms of tech adoption. This can make it difficult for healthcare firms to make meaningful strides in the effort to have more cost-effective, efficient supply chains. Issues can be at the micro level, in terms of employee buy-in and implementation of new products and strategies in facilities. There can also be problems at the macro level, in the effort to develop partner relationships and integrate them effectively into procurement, distribution and support processes.
Integration without complications
The biggest challenge is how to improve supply chains at both the macro and micro levels, all while pressure to consolidate, integrate and streamline increases. In many cases, healthcare organizations already know the task that lies before them, and a mounting sense of urgency can cause more problems than it solves. On the other hand, many firms find themselves mired in a complicated network of newer applications with little backwards compatibility, next-gen tools without obvious use cases and more information than they may know what to do with.
It's important to look at changes that have to be made more immediately. This is especially true in light of facility consolidation or budget crunches, for example. The increased technologization of the supply chain can have many benefits, but too hasty IT implementations can cause more problems than they solve. As Action For Better Healthcare contributor Kayla Sutton recently observed, driving more effective IT and delivery quality across healthcare channels is of utmost importance to building a high-performance chain.
"Either through centralized purchasing channels or moving facilities to the same contracts for higher tier pricing, integrating the supply chain across the continuum of care can drive savings while building consistency among facilities within a health system," Sutton wrote. "As hospital consolidation continues and more physician practices and other facilities become part of larger health systems, creating consistency within the supply chain across the continuum of care will become increasingly influential to the bottom line."
Looking for value in expected places
Telling a healthcare organization leader that his or her supply chain processes aren't optimal probably isn't news. (Or at least, it shouldn't be.) Identifying the areas that offer the most opportunity for greater efficiency and highest cost savings, without disrupting something else in the process, can be a taller order. It's not an overnight process - it's an incremental one. Finding value doesn't mean having to turn over every rock in search of some previously unknown area that delivers benefits. Instead, organization leaders can look in expected places - eradicating silos, forging stronger communication and endeavoring to make sure that newly deployed practices and tools are in good working order before moving on. This is the challenge, wrote Supply Chain Digital contributor Tina Vatanka Murphy, and ultimately, the place where value can be developed.
"Too often, executives make isolated technology decisions rather than focusing on a plan to implement an entire solution," Murphy pointed out. "Leading organizations look at things more pragmatically, though, by focusing on the implications of supply chain transformation for the entire business. More importantly, they recognize that the benefits of technology can only be fully achieved by incorporating process changes into the transformation."
A managed services provider can work with a healthcare organization to identify its most pressing supply chain needs, then develop strategies to help rectify them. A long-term solution is more important than a short-term fix, so a managed services provider can help organizations concentrate on implementing processes that provide a strong foundation for the future.
More supply chain management resources:
- Supply chain management in 2015: Top tech, demand and cost challenges
- 4 ways to improve healthcare supply chains