With the new year upon us, I wanted to take a moment to look back at 2020 and the lasting impact this unprecedented year will leave on healthcare and the healthcare supply chain. For the US healthcare system, the incredible strain of preparing for and treating patients with COVID-19 has been a tireless battle.
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year like none other. Having dedicated my entire career to advancing healthcare supply chain, I am often asked about the impact that this time will have on how business is done in our field. While I think the impact will be broad and lasting, I believe more than anything COVID-19 has taught us the critical nature of our healthcare system and specifically, the central and sometimes unnoticed role that supply chain plays in the delivery of care.
For too long, supply chain has been considered an ancillary function that buys, receives and moves supplies. While many organizations have elevated this function, others are still living with outdated systems, processes, and approaches to managing critical inventory. I firmly believe there is universal understanding that this must change and that this change must come sooner rather than later.
Aligning for a Reliable Healthcare Supply Chain
It is critical to note that change must come not only from healthcare providers (hospitals, physicians, clinics, etc.,) but from everyone involved in the supply chain. This includes manufacturers, distributors, group purchasing organizations, carriers and everyone else involved. With today’s global economy that is governed by supply and demand, it is critical that every constituent universally align and cooperate to support creating a more reliable healthcare supply chain. A few outcomes I think we can expect to see:
Greater elevation of the of supply chain role at healthcare providers
Diversification of supply channels
Revised approach to product allocation mechanisms by manufacturers and distributors
Renewed disaster/pandemic preparedness plans
Regulatory standards for maintaining emergency stock
Adjustments to contractual obligations of manufacturers and distributors
A move towards best-in-class ERP/MMIS systems and away from legacy systems
Better forecasting and demand planning
Better means to manage and track inventory through the supply chain using current and emerging technologies
The list above is by no means exhaustive and any healthcare professional could certainly provide additional points, but the key takeaway is change. While we have not yet emerged from this seemingly endless chapter in our history, the work has already begun—and will continue in the months and years that follow—to rethink how we manage inventory as an industry. It means bringing everyone involved in the supply chain to the table and determining a healthcare supply chain strategy for improvements.
Looking to 2021: Implementing Automation in Healthcare
As the Healthcare Product Manager at RF-SMART charged with charting our roadmap and strategic direction, I too recognize the role we must play in choosing to innovate and deliver solutions that allow supply chain professionals to do their job smarter, faster, better, and with greater reliability. This is a charge that I do not take lightly. We, as with the entire industry, look to build a better and more reliable healthcare and hospital supply chain in the years that follow.
Knowing that in this industry you are always going to be asked to do more with less, my goal is to help providers using Oracle SCM reduce touch points and automate transactions. I'm proud of our current inventory management solution for Oracle CloudSCM. RF-SMART is able to help healthcare providers increase visibility into product location, materials movement and employee related activities throughout a hospital or facility. We ensure your inventory levels are stocked at idea PAR quantities and we help you keep track of packages from receipt to final delivery.
A Heartfelt Thank You
While certain areas of the country felt and continue to feel the impact differently, we can never forget the sacrifice that every healthcare worker, whether on the front line providing patient care or working to procure and distribute PPE, has made to see our country through this unprecedented time. I want to say with great emphasis that we are forever indebted to those that have sacrificed and worked countless hours to see us through this tough time.
About the Author: Bill Brewer currently serves as Healthcare Product Manager at RF-SMART in Jacksonville, Florida. In this role, Bill is responsible for overseeing RF-SMART’s healthcare supply chain strategy and roadmap. Prior to his appointment at RF-SMART, Bill served as Regional Director, Materials Management at USPI/Tenet Healthcare. He has also served in supply chain leadership roles at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, UFHealth, and University of Missouri Healthcare. Brewer holds a Master of Health Administration and a Master of Science in Health Informatics.
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