4 ways to improve healthcare supply chains


describe the imageThe healthcare industry is at a critical juncture. Perhaps no sector has had to contend with as much impact to supply chain and information management processes as healthcare.  Medical firms have been put through a boot camp of data, communication and compliance concerns as they become more digitally focused. It's a chicken-and-egg scenario - medical organizations' systems and infrastructure needs to be upgraded to contend with IT and data governance concerns, while new upgrades or strategies put more considerations on the plate. And with budgets concentrated on research and patient care, these entities often have little flexibility for supply chain transformation.

By embracing a process of incremental development and targeted improvements, healthcare organizations can facilitate an effective transition to a more integrated, interoperable supply chain. Here are four ways they can improve:

  1. Invest in EDI and B2B Integration: With the rise of electronic health records and more data-driven healthcare, medical organizations need to be able to exchange documents that can be protected, opened and read in any environment. Without complete document interoperability, healthcare organizations could experience delays or latency in ensuring the right information gets to the stakeholders who need it.

    By using a B2B integration solution, healthcare providers can automate key information exchange processes, integrating different document rendering tools and ensuring that information is clear and accurate no matter what format it arrives in. With EDI mapping and peerless translation, medical sector organizations can accelerate purchase order and inventory delivery while reducing administrative costs. 

    There are other benefits to having more interoperable documents and data. As more doctors use EHRs and hospitals face stricter oversight of resource allocations, integrating front-end applications with the supply chain can help automate processes and increase system intelligence, observed Healthcare Finance News contributor Roland Butvilofsky.

    "Using business intelligence components and more sophisticated reporting, healthcare organizations can quickly and definitively answer questions like: 'What's our spend?' 'What's our average days of inventory sitting on the shelf?' and 'Can that be reduced?'" Butvilofsky wrote. 
  2. Enhance warehouse management: Effective warehouse management strategies must contend with issues that arise both within the organization and those that stem from outside forces. The healthcare industry has a unique conundrum during a physical or environmental disaster, for example, as it may need supply chains to accelerate in order to provide more care and key services in a time of crisis. It's also essential that hospitals and medical care professionals are not deterred by the same continuity issues that may be plaguing the community.

    Having a robust warehouse management solution and strategy in place before a time of crisis can help organizations better respond. These enable a firm to gain a more comprehensive picture of real-time inventory across multiple locations, redirect orders and distribution if necessary and adroitly maneuver in complex supply chains. 

    Without such a program in place, a medical provider may not have the real-time insight into the operations of its supply chain or be able to redirect resources where appropriate. On a day-to-day level, better inventory and warehouse management make for a stronger, safer and more scalable supply chain.
  3. Focus on B2B integration for the patient's benefit: While a medical patient is certainly different than a business customer in several respects, taking pages out of the increasingly consumer-focused enterprise playbook is a smart choice for healthcare organizations. Medical firms can recalibrate the relationship by viewing patients as partners, Patrick Fry, CEO of Sutter Health, told Forbes. They can establish a firm foundation for this relationship by investing in B2B integration. 

    By leveraging B2B integration services from a trusted partner, healthcare providers can better educate themselves on the challenges faced by their business partners and work with them to develop solutions that facilitate more efficient, effective service. Organizations can better coordinate diverse partner communities, accelerate trading partner relationships and leverage the kind of high-level information protection that healthcare patients need.
  4. Rely on a managed services providerOne of the most significant ongoing issues in the healthcare industry’s march to a new digital reality is that many of the applications and infrastructure involved in building sleeker, interoperable supply chains require ongoing support that exceeds budgets and staffing availability. Investing in a managed services provider's solutions can help keep costs down and provide the organization with effective, available tech support.

    Customized degrees of managed services support can range from expert assistance with rolling out a new application to fully fledged infrastructure and storage support in an offsite data center. A managed services provider can work with a single healthcare organization or with multiple stakeholders in the supply chain to help develop a software and services package that meets the most pressing needs. With this level of support, organizations have the ability to enhance investment in analytics applications, depend on highly resilient architecture and concentrate more resources on patient-facing initiatives. In short, it can solve the chicken problem and the egg problem in one fell swoop. 

If you liked this article, check out more supply chain management articles from Lightwell

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