Article | February 10, 2020
Artificial intelligence (AI) – long an impactful technology in other industries – is in the midst of rapid adoption across the healthcare industry. What was once seen as having great potential is now making its way to real-world implementation, driving improvements in care through enhanced clinical decision support, empowering payers, providers and healthcare organizations across the ecosystem with actionable insight. Patient-generated behavioral data is becoming increasingly common for care management. Smart gadgets such as Fitbits, smartphones and other wearable sensors collect patients’ data, helping patients and physicians better understand habits and set realistic healthcare goals.
Article | February 10, 2020
The COVID-19 virus (C19) pandemic is turning out to be the event of the century. Even World War seems timid in comparison. We are in the 4th month of the virus (in non-China countries) and have gone past the lockdown in many places. Isn’t it time we re-think the approach? What if there is another wave of C19 coming soon? What if C19 is the first of many such events in the future?
Before we get into analysis and solution design, summarizing the C19 quirks:
While a large section of the affected population is asymptomatic, for some it can be lethal
There isn’t clarity on all the ways C19 spreads
It’s known to affect the lungs, heart, and kidneys in patients with weak immunity
It has been hard to identify a definitive pattern of the virus. Some observations in managing the C19 situation are:
With no vaccine in sight, the end of this epidemic looks months or years away
Health care personnel in hospitals need additional protection to treat patients
Lockdowns lead to severe economic hardship and its repeated application can be damaging
Quarantining people has an economic cost, especially in the weaker sections of society
If one takes a step back to re-think about this, we are primarily solving 2 problems:
Minimise deaths: Minimise the death of C19 and non-C19 patients in this period
Maximise economic growth: The GDP output/growth should equal or higher than pre-C19 levels
One needs to achieve the 2 goals in an environment of rising number of C19 cases.
An approach that can be applied to achieve this is:
Data driven health care capacity planning
Build a health repository of all the citizens with details like pre-existing diseases, comorbidity, health status, etc. The repository needs to be updated quarterly to account for patient data changes
This health repository data is combined with the C19 profile (disease susceptibility) and/or other seasonal diseases to determine the healthcare capacity (medicines, doctors, etc.) needed
The healthcare capacity deficit/excess needs to be analysed in categories (beds, equipment, medicine, personnel, etc.) and regions (city, state, etc.) and actions taken accordingly
Regular capacity management will ensure patients aren’t deprived of timely treatment. In addition, such planning helps in the equitable distribution of healthcare across regions and optimising health care costs. Healthcare sector is better prepared to scale-up/down their operations
Based on the analysis citizens can be informed about their probability of needing hospitalisation on contracting C19. Citizens with a higher health risk on C19 infection should be personally trained on prevention and tips to manage the disease on occurrence
The diagram below explains the process
Mechanism to increase hospital capacity without cost escalation
Due to the nature of C19, health personnel are prone to infection and their safety is a big issue. There is also a shortage of hospitable beds available. Even non-C19 patients aren’t getting the required treatment because health personnel seek it as a risk. This resulted in, healthcare costs going up and availability reducing.
To mitigate such issues, hospital layouts may need to be altered (as shown in the diagram below). The altered layout improves hospital capacity and availability of health care personnel. It also reduces the need for the arduous C19 protection procedures. Such procedures reduce the patient treatment capacity and puts a toll on hospital management.
Over a period, the number of recovered C19 persons are going to increase significantly. We need to start tapping into their services to reduce the burden on the system. The hospitals need to be divided into 3 zones. The hospital zoning illustration shown below explains how this could be done. In the diagram, patients are shown in green and health care personnel are in light red.
**Assumption: Infected and recovered C19 patients are immune to the disease. This is not clearly established
Better enforcement of social factors
The other reason for high number of infections in countries like India is a glaring disregard in following C19 rules in public places and the laxity in enforcement. Enforcement covers 2 parts, tracking incidents of violation and penalising the behaviour. Government should use modern mechanisms like crowd sourcing to track incidents and ride on the growing public fear to ensure penalty enforcement succeeds. The C19 pandemic has exposed governance limitations in not just following C19 rules, but also in other areas of public safety like road travel, sanitation, dietary habits, etc.
Maximise economic growth
The earlier lockdown has strained the economy. Adequate measures need to be taken to get the economy back on track. Some of the areas that need to be addressed are:
One needs to evaluate the development needs of the country in different categories like growth impetus factors (e.g. building roads, electricity capacity increase), social factors (e.g. waste water treatment plants, health care capacity), and environmental factors (e.g. solar energy generation, EV charging stations). Governments need to accelerate funding in such projects so that that large numbers of unemployed people are hired and trained. Besides giving an immediate boost to the ailing economy such projects have a future payback. The governments should not get bogged down by the huge fiscal deficit such measures can create. Such a mechanism to get money out in the economy is far than better measures like QE (Quantitative Easing) or free money transfer into people’s bank accounts
Certain items like smartphone, internet, masks, etc. have become critical (for work, education, critical government announcements). It’s essential to subsidise or reduce taxes so that these items are affordable and accessible to everyone without a financial impact
The government shouldn’t put too many C19 related controls on service offerings (e.g. shops, schools, restaurants, cabs). Putting many controls increases the cost of the service which neither the seller not buyer is willing or able to pay. Where controls are put, the Govt should bear the costs or reduce taxes or figure out a mechanism so that the cost can be absorbed.
An event like the C19 pandemic is a great opportunity to rationalise development imbalances in the country. Government funding should be channelized more to under-developed regions. This drives growth in regions that need it most. It also prevents excess migration that has resulted in uncontrolled and bad urbanisation that has made C19 management hard (guidelines like social distance are impossible to follow)
Post-C19 lockdown, the business environment (need for sanitizers, masks, home furniture) has changed. To make people employable in new flourishing businesses there could be a need to re-skill people. Such an initiative can be taken up by the public/private sector
The number of C19 infected asymptomatic patients is going to keep increasing. Building an economy around them (existing, recovered C19 patients) may not be a far-fetched idea. E.g. jobs for C19 infected daily wage earners, C19 infected taxi drivers to transport C19 patients, etc.
In the last 100 years, mankind has conquered the destructive aspects of many a disease and natural mishap (hurricanes, floods, etc.). Human lives lost in such events has dramatically dropped over the years and our preparedness has never been this good. Nature seems to have caught up with mankind’s big strides in science and technology. C19 has been hard to reign in with no breakthrough yet. The C19 pandemic is here to stay for the near future. The more we accept this reality and change ourselves to live with it amidst us, the faster we can return to a new normal. A quote from Edward Jenner (inventor of Small Pox) seems apt in the situation – “The deviation of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases”.
Article | February 10, 2020
The use of technology in hospitals has been increasing for the last decade and at present, it has reached an all-time high. However, it may be surprising to realize that the healthcare supply chain management (SCM) area of hospitals has not fully embraced technology. According to a survey conducted among 100 hospitals recently, nearly half of these hospitals use less sophisticated/outdated tools or manual processes, such as Excel spreadsheets, to manage supply expenses, inventory, and other supply chain activities.
According to the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM), healthcare supply chain management costs will surpass labor costs shortly for the number one position. But there is good news; similar surveys show potential for significant healthcare supply chain management cost savings. For example, an analysis by Navigant consulting estimates that, by standardizing and streamlining the healthcare supply chain management processes, hospitals can save an average of US$11 million per hospital or 17.7% annually.
What is Healthcare Supply Chain Management
Procurement, distribution, and movement of products and services from the receiving deck to the patient encompass the process of healthcare supply chain management.
There are a lot of challenges in healthcare supply chain management processes. The major issues include demand for specific types of product in inventory, hoarding of supplies, out-of-stock issues that may lead to expensive delivery charges, product expirations, unwarranted increase in inventory dollars based on demand, and pilferage, among others. These issues may contribute to out-of-budget supply costs.
Healthcare supply chain management is an extremely complex process. Poor product standardization, inadequate data reporting, a lack of automation throughout the process, and increasing regulatory requirements only add to the difficulties. Thus, an easy way to get rid of all these complexities is to incorporate advanced technologies in the healthcare supply chain management process.
Healthcare Supply Chain Management Technology
Advanced healthcare supply chain management technologies are developed to transform the supply chain process to a more efficient one by automating repetitive manual tasks in hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Minimizing waste, enabling timely data-based decision-making, streamlining inventory, and reducing labour, supply, and operational costs are the major benefits of healthcare supply chain management software.
There are mainly two types of healthcare supply chain management technology solutions, enterprise resource planning systems and niche healthcare inventory and healthcare supply chain management solutions.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems
ERP systems are not the best for healthcare supply chain management specifically because these systems are used in many industries. Also, the concerned vendors often do not have the required healthcare expertise. As this is mainly implemented by larger and non-healthcare related businesses, it may take a longer time to implement. Also, it requires dedicated customization resources. This makes it inflexible for the healthcare industry supply chain management.
Niche Healthcare Inventory and Supply Chain Solutions
This type is known as the best-of-breed healthcare supply chain management solutions. They provide healthcare-directed and flexible solutions as they are affordable and incorporate deeper industry knowledge. These systems can also focus on specific areas such as interventional medicine, surgery, and other healthcare departments.
Why Should Hospitals Invest in Healthcare SCM Technology
Although hospitals and other healthcare organizations have demonstrated excellent performance in fighting COVID-19, the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the present healthcare supply chain management process. Supply shortages, especially lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), highlighted how poor healthcare supply chain management affected healthcare providers. The underlying concern behind the supply shortage is that hospitals’ supply chains are not well prepared for the future of healthcare. Organizations are depending upon old models, which are not innovative, agile, or advanced enough to cater to the requirements of the modern data and technology-driven world.
Automating Healthcare supply chain management will be a major differentiator for hospitals at present and in future, impacting all aspects, including brand reputation, consumer trust, and quality of care. Healthcare leaders, such as organization heads and hospital administrators, require a new healthcare supply chain management system to deliver care at a lower cost. To realize this requirement, they have to make bold decisions and speed up the transformation of their healthcare supply chain.
Acceleration of healthcare supply chain management transformation will be grounded in many imperatives, which are related to process, people, and technology. The digital transformation focusing on these areas will fasten the long-term growth and sustainability of healthcare supply chain management.
Digital Transformation to Raise Healthcare Supply Chain to New Levels
The Healthcare industry has given importance, other than information systems and key enterprise technologies, to electronic health record platforms in the last decade. Currently, the healthcare industry is on the brink of a digital revolution. Several technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), are opening new doors for healthcare organizations to evolve to a level beyond anything previously imagined. It will surely affect healthcare supply chain management.
However, the healthcare supply chain has not yet kept pace with changing technologies. To create a fully developed supply chain, hospitals should find innovative ways to integrate their physical process with digital data. Hospitals should start using tools such as predictive analytics along with digital statistics and information to drive decisions.
Investing in this technology integrated healthcare supply chain management, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations will help achieve optimal benefits. However, it needs an efficient deployment of new technologies, such as the integration of ML and AI, and maintain a functioning healthcare system.
Collaboration Between People and Technology for Better Results
Years of operating in traditional systems has delayed the progress of healthcare supply chain management. As the consequences of running out of stock can be devastating in the healthcare system, leaders and clinical professionals have to look at supply chain differently. The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated and strengthened the necessity of better collaboration. Now leaders need to act timely to solidify these changes, brought out by the pandemic, to stop people reverting to behaviours that were problematic in the past.
Automation will make the future of the workforce and supply chain workflows more efficient. The greatness of the impact on future healthcare supply chain management performance depends upon the greatness of the automation of work. Hospitals should highly focus on technology to perform various repetitive tasks, including delivering patient food trays, gathering supplies and bringing them to caregivers, picking case carts, and transporting supply carts to storage rooms. Staff efficiency is increased, when repetitive tasks and predictable work are automated and performed by robots. This helps staff focus on more complex tasks that drive innovation and value.
Digital transformation occurs only when there is strong leadership and a conducive culture. Hospitals should realize the value of data in decision making and change their view about the supply chain leader. Modern healthcare supply chain management leaders are those who excel in education, governance, collaboration and communication, and change management. In hospitals, the supply chain management leader position should be elevated to executive level and they should be capable of using modern technologies for effectively handling the healthcare supply chain management process.
The Future of Supply Chain Operations
The sole aim of effective healthcare supply chain management has been finding the lowest cost products for the end-user without considering much about the profit of the manufacturer. The alarming product shortages and supply chain disruptions during the pandemic have changed that. Now, leaders are much more focused on how to diversify manufacturer product origins.
Technological advancements and digital transformation will encourage the efforts to evolve vendor and inventory management, which is evident in procure-to-pay strategies. In case of procure-to-pay strategies, hospitals can reduce cost and increase efficiency by integrating technology assistance in areas such as accounts payable, including invoice discrepancies, match exceptions, and placing purchase orders electronically.
In hospitals, healthcare supply chain management should evolve quickly to forecast and adjust the changing flow of patient volumes and care sites. Increased acute care in the home, utilization of telehealth, and remote patient monitoring will surely change demand for care facilities and supply demands from consumers. Efficiently catering to these requirements with the assistance of the latest technologies will determine the future of hospitals and healthcare supply chain management. In the healthcare supply chain management, technologies will play a vibrant role in boosting competence and reducing cost from now. Get yourself updated to avoid getting outdated!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the value of supply chain management in healthcare?
The healthcare supply chain management process ensures the right time availability of medicines, maximizing patient care, minimizing inventory wastage, and minimizing human errors. Healthcare supply chain management ensures timely availability of medicines for all patients at right time at lower cost possible.
What are the 5 basic components of supply chain management?
The five basic components of supply chain management are plan, source, manufacture, deliver, and return. Through these five components of supply chain management hospitals ensure the availability of all the medicines in hospitals. Shortage of essential medicines and other articles brings total chaos to the system.
Why is Supply Chain Management important for a hospital?
Supply chain management is essential for hospitals and other healthcare organizations as it ensures the availability of medicines and medical equipment so that patients get access to all facilities in time. In order to keep a consistent patient experience, an efficient supply chain management is necessary for all hospitals.
Article | February 10, 2020
This, unfortunately, is a very real cyber threat that healthcare organizations face every single day, and most of them are not prepared for it. According to a recent report by HIMSS, significant security incidents are a near-universal experience in US healthcare organizations. Most incidents are initiated by bad actors, leveraging e-mail as a means to compromise the integrity of their targets. Yes, they might be on a protected network, but the endpoint devices themselves aren’t protected as well as they could be. Combine an unprotected medical device with staff that hasn’t had any cyber training creates a huge insider threat, whether the staff does anything unwittingly or maliciously.