Global healthcare supply chains are often besieged by a raft of problems. The healthcare supply chain issue is often visible, when the supply of urgent vaccines or medicines is disrupted due to various reasons. Some of the healthcare supply chain management issues that persist, include the following:
While the benefits of supply chain management in healthcare are unparalleled, there are pressing issues like the ones highlighted above, which require intervention and strategic solutions across all stakeholders involved in the industry.
Biggest issues plaguing supply chain management in the healthcare industry and how to solve them
Unnecessary and higher spending has touched massive proportions across hospitals and other healthcare institutions due to poor management of inventory. Inventory management relies on complex functions like optimizing and predicting inventory volume, tailoring storage blueprints, delivery tracking, tackling expired products, recalls, and so on.
Most institutions sometimes fail to supply products on time to physicians and patients as well. The solution lies in optimal management of inventory through healthcare supply chain automation, which enables optimization, visibility, tracking, predictions, and more, based on historical data and patterns. Better technology-focused management of inventory is the need of the hour along with IoT elements like sensors for tracking.
AI-based predictive insights will also help greatly with better supply chain management.
This will help generate insights that will enable firms to scale up decision-making and optimize inventory better. AI can forecast demand based on historical information and will cover aspects like inventory distribution throughout several storage zones and streamlining of recalled and expired product management. There will thus be higher savings and efficiencies through better storage and purchasing blueprints.
Many firms are facing issues in finding and hiring the right talent along with retaining them. Alongside, they are facing issues with manual and time-consuming operations and human errors.
The solution lies in using AI and other technologies like RPA (robotic process automation), blockchain, and IPA (intelligent process automation) for covering manual tasks, order processing, inventory volume supervision, payments, invoicing, comparing and evaluating vendor quotations, notifying and communicating statuses of shipments, and more.
While manual operations are automated and the company reduces time, it can recruit and retain talent by focusing them on critical areas while lowering their scope of manual tasks. A combination of RPA and AI can help in supplier short-listing, inventory stock analysis, backorders, recalls, and reviews of vendor contracts as well.
Shortages usually happen due to lack of availability or sudden demand and disruptions.
AI-based solutions may help in identifying products which are critical in several disruption or shortage-based scenarios, while cross-referencing similar ones throughout a wider supplier network without any biases. Analytics and event tracking solutions can also forecast secondary and primary supply shortages.
A majority of supply chains in the healthcare space are reactive in their nature, responding only upon certain events.
However, the lack of proper planning is a major hurdle for most of these companies. Technological solutions with integrated supply chain management and AI algorithms can help automate supplier evaluations, screen contracts, short-list suppliers, and optimize management through evaluation of lead times and cost comparisons.
These tools may also help in better workflow transparency with real-time product tracking and communication transparency as well.
Healthcare companies can forecast inventory volumes for meeting future demand without any over-stocking or under-stocking/shortage risks, while managing item quality and automating replacements or refills for products as well.
These are some of the major issues that healthcare supply chains grapple with, although technology can help them overcome the same. This enables higher time, efficiency, and cost savings in the long haul.