Excerpts from a Conversation with Intalere Senior Advisory Specialist, Tracey Chadwell
Supply chain resiliency is a term and phrase that has really gained traction over the past several months as we deal with the fallout of the pandemic and seek to apply some lessons and best practices so we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
While the pandemic showed the importance of the supply chain, it also served in some ways to spotlight its weak links. In order to make the healthcare supply chain more resilient, we need to identify several components that are vital to its success.
In building a resilient supply chain, we need to focus on building a cross-functional team, implementing the correct strategies and utilizing the tools that can make the supply chain more efficient and effective.
First, let’s look at some of the key team members and what their roles are.
When you look at the supply chain and its function, it’s a vital part of the entire team at the hospital to achieve the quadruple aim of improving the patient care experience, the health of a population, the clinical experience and reducing per capita healthcare costs. For that reason, we need to make sure that we in supply chain develop a winning team with some good strategies and some good tools to help do that.
When we look at the team itself, we need to make sure that we’ve got all the stakeholders involved including leadership, clinicians, finance, suppliers, distributors and group purchasing organizations (GPOs). Once the team is identified, you need to develop a game plan. What are some of those most critical winning strategies to enhancing your supply chain once the team is in place?
The most important part is identifying your areas of vulnerability. COVID gave us an opportunity to actually see some of those areas and identify them pretty quickly. But we really need to do a deeper dive and explore the areas that might put us in a vulnerable situation, and then develop strategies as far as preserving supplies, and preventing over ordering and hoarding of limited resources.
You want to look at your current inventory practices. Many facilities went to just-in-time (JIT) inventories to avoid having bulk storage. And yet this could have caused them a problem with the allocations during the pandemic. That may be something that needs to be re-evaluated.
Another strategy is to review a list of must-have supplies and develop a hierarchy of clinically approved substitutions. That’s why having clinicians on your team is so incredibly important. You may find products that you think would be viable substitutions, but they really need to be clinically approved to ensure they meet the requirements of the end users.
You also want to build in redundancies. Source like items from several sources and build relationships with vendors that are manufacturing in different countries or non-traditional local suppliers. Many of us have had an opportunity to develop some relationships with local suppliers, and those need to be continued because they may be able to provide you with an allocation in an emergency so that you would have priority in obtaining needed supplies.
Another area that people have been investigating is the use of disposable versus reusable versus reprocessing. There may be an opportunity for you to lower the inventory that you carry by utilizing reusable products or by reprocessing. Additional investigation may be required as you’re going to need to have laundry services or some way to reprocess or reuse the product.
Demand signaling is another strategy in which you have visibility to the availability, consumption and utilization of critical supplies. What this all boils down to is having access to, and knowing how to use data to predict potential waves of cases. Demand signaling involves understanding your current supply levels or inventory, the burn rate of how it’s being used and the sourcing challenges.
Predictive forecasting models that are based on clinical surveillance through the EHR and supply chain data can be useful in helping to do this, especially if we go beyond COVID. There are opportunities to identify swings, upticks of certain illnesses, diseases or even surgery cases at certain times of the year, and use that data to do some predictive forecasting about what supplies will be needed to ensure that you have inventory to care for your patients.
In our next post, we’ll review some important tools to implement to help you get ahead of the curve.
We Can Help
For further information on any of our resources to help you deal with your supply chain challenges, visit our website at intalere.com. You can review our recent Supply Chain Resiliency podcast and infographic, as well as success stories and recent blog posts on a wide variety of supply chain topics.