Tag Archives: supply chain resiliency

Ensuring the Resilience of Your Supply Chain – Team, Strategy and Tools – Part 2

Excerpts from a Conversation with Intalere Senior Advisory Specialist, Tracey Chadwell

In our previous post, we introduced the concept of supply chain resiliency, and shared insight on building your team and several strategies you can undertake as you move through the process.

Now that we’ve got the team and we’ve got some of the strategy in place, what are some of the tools that are most important to implement to help you get ahead of the curve? What are some of the things that you can do in utilizing opportunities through the various partners on your stakeholder team?

It’s very important to build relationships with local, national and non-traditional suppliers. Obviously, suppliers can provide you access to products, but as we learned during COVID, having a variety of resources is important.

We were going places like Home Depot, which is not traditionally thought of as a supplier for medical supplies, but they were able to provide things like N95 masks and other types of protective equipment. To keep those relationships very, very vital, you need some pre-planning to develop needs-based allocation strategies to ensure access to your supplies.

This can be done through the suppliers directly, especially the local suppliers, but it also needs to be done through your distributors who can also assist with identifying alternative products, strategic sourcing and risk share models, as well as storage of products and inventory management. Some of them offer an opportunity to serve as your warehouse or your storage area and will bring the supplies to you on a regular basis so that you don’t have to allocate that extra space normally required for inventory. Speak with them about possible opportunities to see how they can assist.

Suppliers/Distributors will sometimes initiate allocations to prevent excessive ordering and to promote the availability of needed products to other healthcare providers. We saw some of this happening during the pandemic, where it may benefit specific facilities, but it also hurt others down the line with not having product availability. That’s something we need to work with our distributors on proactively, so that we have our products, but our neighboring facilities have their products as well.

Your GPO can be an incredible resource in that they can help determine reliable sourcing methods, purchasing partnerships, etc. Many GPOs are now looking at onshore/nearshore sourcing, diversifying sourcing and product substitutions, so that we’re not in a position again where we are not able to get products because of where they were made. They are looking at non-traditional suppliers and vetting them to ensure providers are not taken advantage of.

Another area that’s incredibly important is that transparency is the name of the game along the entire supply chain. We need tools that are going to help put data together and provide actionable information and provide transparency.

Some larger organizations are implementing ERP or enterprise resource planning, a cloud-based solution that basically allows you to find the product from when it hits your door to when it’s actually being used on the patient. With that, you have the visibility to utilization and inventory levels, and can see where it’s being used, how it contributes to cost of care and how it actually flows through your financial software.

We’re seeing a lot of system integration and interfaces come up. That allows for data flow between different systems so that you can put the big picture together and see what’s going on with your inventory systems, your staffing models, your patient information and more.

Item master cleanup is incredibly important because if you’re not using accurate data, the decisions you make based on that data are often flawed. There are services that provide item master cleanup and maintenance that are worthwhile in resolving this issue.

For smaller facilities, we’re seeing a lot of solutions coming out that are procure-to-pay. From ordering all the way through finance, it’s a chance to integrate what’s going on. Many of these solutions can be scaled down to fit smaller institutions. It basically makes it almost like an Amazon-type setting. You can put your ordering in and it helps with your three-way reconciliation, you can do inventory management and you can do charging from it with barcodes. And again, this would all feed into the financial software.

Finally, there are stand-alone inventory management systems so that you can see what’s there, how much you’ve got on stack and what they have on the units. Again, all of these systems help you in knowing what’s there, knowing what the availability and usage is, and can really help you do some predictive analytics and determine what needs to be ordered when, how much to keep in stock, develop your par levels, etc.

To go one step further in looking at workflow efficiencies, we also have robotic process automation (RPA). Basically, any repetitive process can be set up so that it is done by a software “robot,” freeing you up to spend more time for example with enhancing your revenue by addressing accounts payable, versus making repeated calls to insurance companies for refiling or for pre-authorizations.

That’s another area we’re seeing more and more because in going virtual, a lot of things fell by the wayside due to the fact we didn’t have processes in place for them. Having these types of solutions in place now makes us much more viable and sustainable. If something like that should happen again, and you can continue these processes, continue generating revenue, continue communicating with patients and insurers, you don’t have to fall behind or play catch up when you get back to the office.

These are just some of the best practices that can be helpful to anyone depending on where they are in their level of supply chain maturity.  

Something that really came out during the pandemic is just making sure that you’re prepared and you’re proactive in working with those other sourcing alternatives. Whether it be reuse or other alternative systems, they all work together to make sure that you don’t have a drop in service or you’re still able to ensure that you’re taking care of patients and customers at the high levels they have become accustomed to from your organization.

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.

Ensuring the Resilience of Your Supply Chain – Team, Strategy and Tools – Part 1

Ensure the Resiliency of Your Supply Chain

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.