The Best 9 Ways to Manage Healthcare Supply Chains

Healthcare supply chains are complex, but they don’t have to be a nightmare. Today’s healthcare industry is full of challenges and opportunities. The industry faces more demands, from regulatory compliance to supply chain management.

The need for greater transparency, improved collaboration, and visibility into all aspects of the supply chain are paramount. This is for healthcare organizations to meet these challenges head-on.

This article looks at some best practices for managing healthcare supply chains.

1. Have a Plan

It’s essential to have a written plan. This gives you a clear picture of what needs to be done and when to do it. It can also help you avoid mistakes when managing the flow of goods through your organization.

A good plan will include the following components:

  • An inventory analysis that identifies the supplies needed for each department or unit
  • An assessment of where those items are currently stored 
  • Plans for managing inventory levels based on workflows, patient understanding, and regulatory compliance requirements
  • A process for receiving new inventory, updating inventory records, and replenishing supplies when they are low or out of stock 
  • A process for identifying unused inventory that needs to be returned or disposed of properly

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2. Be Aware of Risks

Healthcare supply chains face several risks. Some are predictable, but others can be more sudden and disruptive. Risks can be in three categories:

  • Operational risks. These include supply chain inefficiencies, price volatility, access to capital, and regulatory compliance.
  • Predictable risks. These include natural disasters, pandemics, and cyberattacks on IT systems.
  • Unexpected risks. These include geopolitical events such as war or trade sanctions that could disrupt the flow of goods and services into or out of a country.

The best way to manage these risks for the healthcare supply chain is to take an integrated approach. The managers should assess their organization’s weaknesses and strengths now and in the future. This way, they can make better decisions about how to prepare for disruptions that might occur.

3. Embrace Technology

Technology is changing how we buy and sell everything, including healthcare products and services. Healthcare supply chains are complex. The industry is constantly changing and evolving, which means you need to be able to adapt quickly. To do so, you need to embrace technology as much as possible. This includes;

Barcode scanning software can help keep track of inventory and prevent overstocking or running out of supplies. This works well with pharmaceuticals because they have unique product codes that you can scan into the system fast.

Identity verification software can also reduce fraud in hospitals and clinics. These solutions allow you to check patient credentials against your database before giving them access. Using the services of identity verification companies, you can prevent theft and unauthorized access by checking employees’ IDs before they enter the restricted areas.

4. Implement Lean Principles

Lean principles are a great way to reduce waste in healthcare supply chains. Lean principles focus on reducing process steps. It cuts non-value-added activities and improves efficiency through better use of technology. 

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Lean principles are a key part of healthcare supply chain management. Lean principles include:

  • Eliminating waste to improve efficiency
  • Using pull systems to reduce lead times and inventory levels
  • Having an organizational structure that supports flow and continuous improvement

Lean principles work well for healthcare supply chains because they reduce waste in all areas. This includes materials, people, space, information, and energy. The goal is to cut unnecessary work, reduce inventory levels and improve the system’s overall flow of goods and services.

5. Use Analytics Software

Healthcare organizations must check their inventory levels closely. This is to avoid out-of-stock situations leading to patient care issues. Analytics software can help track inventory levels and flag when supplies run low. The supply chain team can use the data from analytics software to reorder products before they run out.

Analytics software also helps track the flow of goods from supplier to patient. They identify potential issues in the supply chain, like delays or errors during shipping or receiving processes. You can use the data from these systems for continuous improvement initiatives within your organization.

6. Automate Inventory Management and Tracking

If you’re using paper-based systems for managing inventory and tracking, it’s time for an upgrade! Digital tools make it easier to manage inventory levels, and analyze historical data for insights into future needs. They provide superior visibility into your supplies at any given time. These solutions also allow authorized users to enter requests for specific items anywhere at any time. This can help speed up response times during emergencies or other crises when supplies are needed fast.

7. Use Demand Forecasting

You need to know how much product you will need when used and how much you can afford to buy. Your forecasts will improve with more information about your patient population.

Information systems and analytics can help with this task, but there are other ways. For example, suppose you have an extensive customer information database. You can use that data to predict future demand. You might also consider hiring a third-party vendor specializing in healthcare supply chain management. This vendor has access to data that can help them create accurate forecasts for your organization.

8. Measure Performance  

You can benchmark your supply chain’s performance against others by measuring performance. This will help you identify areas where improvement is necessary. How do you ensure that your healthcare organization has a good supply chain? Measure the cost, quality, and reliability of its products and services to improve them over time.

Measurement helps you identify areas for improvement and track progress toward your goals. You can measure; 

  • Efficiency by evaluating cycle times or inventory levels
  • Productivity by looking at throughput or sales
  • Quality by tracking defects or customer complaints
  • Innovation by examining new product introductions and new technologies

9. Foster Collaboration

Collaboration is one of the most critical aspects of managing healthcare supply chains. Hospitals work with many different types of suppliers to deliver high-quality care to patients. They  must work together to deliver efficient and effective solutions for patients.

Collaboration can take many forms, including communication between departments and teams within and between hospitals.

Conclusion

There is no one-size-fits-all way to manage your healthcare supply chain. You must take into account all the variables that are unique to your healthcare institution. It all comes down to what works best for you and your business. There are plenty of ways to manage a healthcare supply chain, and the above tactics are just the beginning. Proper management can ensure costs are controlled, and inventories are better managed.

 

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