What is healthcare supply chain management?
Unlike other product categories, healthcare supply chain management is highly complex and specialized. It involves planning, obtaining resources, managing stocks of semi-finished and finished products, and finally delivering to the end consumers in the desired condition. The Healthcare supply chain involves the transfer of simple products such as thermometers to highly complex types of machinery such as ultrasound equipment. It includes transportation of complete healthcare set up from one place to another, with or without the patient. There are numerous stakeholders involved in healthcare SCM, including: –
- healthcare organizations
- regulatory authorities
- wholesalers and agents
- insurance companies
Challenges for Healthcare SCM: –
With so much to coordinate and synchronize, it is no wonder that healthcare SCM faces many challenges.
- More demanding consumers: –
With rising awareness about the importance of good health, people are becoming more demanding about healthcare quality. They are very vocal about the quality of materials, drug information, and other matters.
- Competitive Environment: –
Digitization has contributed immensely to laying more options for consumers. However, this heightened competition means greater challenges for goods and services providers. Supply chain management is one of them. Especially when transporting healthcare supplies across different countries, it becomes an even greater challenge to preserve the optimum condition of the supplies.
- Rising legal obligations: –
Regional economic cooperation and sharing of trade routes, infrastructure, and information are some of the positive outcomes of globalization. However, these benefits come with greater accountability for businesses. Healthcare businesses face the toughest accountability, given the sensitive nature of business. Healthcare SCM must comply with the local and international regulatory authorities. Also, the rise of environmental protection makes healthcare businesses accountable to non-governmental and social organizations.
- Broken or inconsistent value chain: –
With so many stakeholders involved, there are chances that the value chain breaks at different points. Healthcare services cannot afford a disconnected supply chain network. Maintaining a holistic supply chain network is one of the biggest challenges for medical businesses.
Importance of supply chain continuity planning for healthcare businesses: –
Hence it is evident that scrupulous supply chain continuity planning is critical for the success of any healthcare business. Accurate demand and supply forecasts, a close watch for ongoing political and global environments, and optimum use of technology to bring the cost down are some ways to cater to these challenges, through a better planning effort.
Stock management software help in accurate demand and supply forecasts. Cloud supply chain management lets all the relevant stakeholder share information most accurately, minimizing any chances of breakage in the value chain. It helps streamline and synchronize all the processes optimally, leading to better efficiency overall. The use of technological devices such as monitors and sensors allows accurate information recording. Real-time information is very useful for better analysis and strategic decision-making. Greater automation across different processes minimizes the chances of error and improves speed and efficiency.
The need for an unbroken and seamless supply chain was best portrayed by the pandemic in 2019. Amid the global crisis, it was a big challenge for healthcare businesses to maintain an uninterrupted supply chain. The only solace is the optimization of technology for better data analysis, forecasts, and synchronization of information.