The Future of Healthcare Supply Chains

The healthcare industry is rapidly changing as effort is put towards simultaneously providing value-based care and staying cost-efficient. This conjunction has been the catalyst for many changes within the healthcare industry, specifically within their supply chains. 

Healthcare supply chains are shifting focus toward better serving patients globally, and to efficient, low-cost processes that enhance patient experience down the line. This shift allows predictions regarding healthcare supply chains, and what business owners may be able to expect. 

1. Expansion of Supply Chain with Personalization 

One of the highest priorities for healthcare supply chains is expansion. This includes more than the expansion of infrastructure and transportation in countries that have less accessibility. Patient care has historically been limited to a person’s ability to arrive at a hospital or care facility, and restricted by the supply chain’s capacity to swiftly provide the correct product for that patient’s individual need. Technology has recently enhanced treatment products to allow patients to receive care outside of a traditional care facility. 

A patient’s treatment can now follow them outside of a hospital with things like telehealth communication, at-home testing kits, and at-home treatment that can be sent right to the patient’s door. This requires healthcare supply chains to extend past hospitals and include last-mile transportation to patients so that they do not have to return to the hospital. 

At-home patient care also requires more treatments to become personalized. It has been more cost-efficient to mass-produce the same product for many patients’ treatment, though value-based care is creating a shift to customized patient care. Healthcare supply chains must meet this new expectation, and there are new ways to do so while saving money. 3D printing and new forms of diagnostics allow for more personalized treatment to be provided while saving manufacturing costs.

2. Standardized Patient Experiences 

The healthcare industry is becoming more patient-centered, and healthcare supply chain processes can help the patient’s experience become more consistent. The personalization of patient treatment does not mean that the healthcare supply chains cannot have a standard system of operation that greatly uplifts the patient experience. Healthcare supply chains will have to adopt new processes that will impact the patient’s care experience. As healthcare companies adapt to newer data processing capabilities, they can more easily keep their information correct and consistent. 

Healthcare supply chains with the ability to collect and use data effectively will be able to more accurately determine the costs of products and treatment. Data analysis can optimize processes to be optimized and create less waste while providing patients with better care. 

3. Supply Chain Predicability 

Predictability is a must as we continue to move towards standardizing patient experience and more at-home care. Healthcare supply chains will need to implement strategies that help them become more predictable to healthcare providers who need high visibility on their needed products. 

Data will be utilized to be more proactive and anticipate product demand. Clean data will also help supply chains stay agile and not allow disruptions to hold up the services they are working to provide. Discontinued or back-ordered products can greatly disrupt a supply chain, though when such things can be more easily resolved with data analysis, the supply chain can become much more predictable. 

Data usage is one strategy that will help supply chain predictability, and several strategies can help a supply chain stay consistent and save costs. Some strategies include expanding domestic supply chain production, making product allocation needs-based, and increasing trust. These will make healthcare supply chains more resilient so that they will not be interrupted by disruptions that would make them less predictable to those who need the products most.

4. New Technology: Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics 

Many of the expectations we’ve discussed have involved using data. There are great outcomes for doing so, but what exactly does that entail? Healthcare supply chains will have data that, if it can be documented and recorded correctly, will be priceless for decision making. 

The more data, the better, since it can provide a clearer picture of what to expect at the patient level. A further collection of data can greatly impact every stage of the supply chain, as each segment can make predictions based on past data and change processes to be better optimized. Data can greatly enhance a company’s capacity to be proactive, and predictive analytics can amplify that capability.

Predictive analytics will help supply chains with decision-making and offer a clear way to see the ebb and flow of supply and demand. Companies can use predictive analytics in new ways that help bring visibility to inventory and ensure the right products are being ordered and priced correctly and that there are enough items to meet demand. 

Predictive analytics can also help companies be more proactive in situations that significantly impact the healthcare supply chain. The Covid-19 pandemic created new aspects of healthcare to predict, like the amount of Covid-19 cases, and the number of patients needing treatment. Predictive analytics can help companies prepare for these unforeseen circumstances, and prepare the supply chain for future unknowns.  

The use of Artificial Intelligence is beginning to grow throughout the healthcare industry. It’s being used to clean data and let human effort be used in more efficient ways. There are even more ways that AI can be used to enhance value-based healthcare and save costs that would be spent on things like labor, and can also help with supply and demand. AI can help supply chains keep up demand, by recommending stand-in products if the preferred product is not available. New technology like AI algorithms can be used to fill the gap between supply and demand while saving costs and eliminating human error. 

5. Collaboration and Communication with Clinicians and Supply Chains 

Some disruptions in a patient’s care can be attributed to miscommunication between the clinicians and the supply chain. When the clinicians do not have visibility for the products in the supply chain, they can’t provide the best treatment possible. When the supply chain doesn’t have clear communication with the hospital, it is difficult to know the demand for products and when they should arrive at the hospital. The future of the healthcare supply chain entails more communication with both parties so that patient care can be prioritized. 

Supply chain professionals and clinicians can work together to create methods that benefit both parties. Clinicians and physicians can implement better aspects into their processes that better serve their patients when they receive more information from the supply chain. Healthcare supply chain professionals can provide clinicians with information pertaining to the prices of products and transportation, outcomes, and alternative options for their products.  

Addressing these issues can improve the relationship between supply chains and healthcare providers. Healthcare supply chains can gain clinicians’ trust by communicating regularly so that there is consistent improvement. Healthcare supply chain professionals will be able to provide insight into the inner workings of the supply chain, and their voice will improve decision-making to benefit everyone. One of the biggest costs for health systems is the cost of products and services, and further collaboration can save these costs while providing the patient with exemplary treatment.  

6. Beneficial Relationships with Trading Partners

Communication between healthcare supply chains and healthcare providers will bring positive improvements to the supply chain process, as will communication between trading partners. As healthcare supply chains change, relationships between trading partners will be the perfect next step towards improving these processes. The main goal in the healthcare industry is improved patient care, a mutual purpose that providers and suppliers can work together to bring to fruition. 

The new changes being made while implementing new technology that improves the healthcare industry can also bring adaptability to the related supply chains. Adaptability is crucial in today’s ever-changing healthcare environment, but efficiency is also necessary to provide the best possible care to patients. If a company’s methods are too rigid, it will not be able to adapt quickly to unexpected changes.

Furthering relationships between providers and suppliers will help a supply chain boost its robustness. Having trusting relationships between distributors and manufacturers, and having effective contracting models will create a strong network within the healthcare supply chain that can adapt smoothly while providing the most efficient services possible. 

Wrapping Up

Technological advancements create quite the task for clinicians and supply chains who must keep up with the changes. The growth of technology and societal developments are promoting value-based healthcare, while the healthcare industry must still save costs wherever possible. The future of healthcare supply chains can be predicted as these two goals collide. 

Healthcare supply chains must expand past their services towards hospitals and healthcare providers. The proper use and collection of data are becoming necessary for both healthcare providers and the supply chain to create efficient processes. The final piece of the puzzle regarding what to expect with the supply chain is communication. Additional communication internally and externally is the best way to maintain consistency, efficiency, and overall improvements to patient care. 

Trax Technologies

Trax Technologies

Trax is the global leader in Transportation Spend Management solutions. We partner with the most global and complex brands to drive meaningful optimizations and savings through industry-leading technology solutions and world-class advisory services. With the largest global footprint spanning North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe, we enable our clients to have greater control over their transportation performance and spend. Our focus is on your success.