It's officially 2020. Now is time for our vision to be as sharp as the date. What lies ahead is sure to be many months filled with new opportunities for all areas of healthcare. Patients and consumers have a renewed focus on health and wellness, and not just during the month of January. As a result, many alternative care options have appeared or overtaken preferred points of care of the past.
One thing that remains consistent is healthcare providers’ need for products and supplies. In an efficient supply chain, these products and supplies are easily accessible. The procurement process can encounter disruptions, preventing or delaying delivery, causing frustrations and taking away time from focusing on patient needs. Distributors, like Concordance, build functional end-to-end supply chains to alleviate disruptions and meet customer demands. Below are some trends and opportunities we see ahead in 2020:
Healthcare costs are a prime concern for patients. As the healthcare environment continues to evolve towards treating patients as consumers, there is increased demand for billing transparency. According to several articles, many patients have received surprise medical bills that patients assumed would be covered by insurance. Surprise medical bills are typically associated with out-of-network healthcare providers, where services may only be partially covered or not covered at all.
A recent survey discovered that patients desire additional price transparency and payment flexibility. The survey states that more than half of respondents wanted out-of-pocket cost estimates along with more flexible payment options and bill clarity. Healthcare providers may be more inclined to seek out digital alternatives, such as apps, to more clearly communicate patient expectation and billing to better serve patients in 2020. Nearly half of respondents would consider switching providers if another offered a digital patient experience.
Supply Chain Visibility
Supply chain visibility is all about knowing where inventory is, the spend thereof, and how well components and products in transit can be tracked as they move from point A to point B. Supply chain visibility works in conjunction with the effective processing of transparency for the supply side with clinicians and healthcare providers. Visibility helps put the transparency, and the learnings of, into motion. Otherwise, transparency is just another data point rather than the interpretation and sharing of data to create better outcomes. An informed partnership is one that becomes educated by the availability and understanding of visible data. A distribution partner helps healthcare providers understand what they are looking at, in terms of data, and its importance for their facility.
In 2020 we can look for more supply chain visibility discussions between manufacturers, distributors, group purchasing organizations and healthcare providers. All stakeholders can work together to find ways to better ensure product availability, improve forecasting and support patient care. The ultimate goal of supply chain visibility is improving and strengthening the supply chain for all.
According to a 2019 supply chain analysis from Navigant, high-performing supply chains are establishing strategic partnerships with key suppliers to more openly share cost information and conduct joint product development. Such collaboration allows entities to move away from what has often been an adversarial relationship between procurement personnel and their health system’s suppliers.
Concordance, and other distributors like us, service multiple healthcare delivery points and understand the uniqueness and complexity of each. Because we work with many manufacturers to offer a wide variety of products, we’re able to provide the right products to meet the needs of each healthcare provider. This ensures that providers, at all levels of the health system, have what they need to provide quality care while also giving the health system consistency in supply chain.
Distributors also know that providers working in home care, long term care, acute care and in other healthcare environments perform multiple functions in addition to their position, adding more stress to their jobs. Working with a distributor can alleviate ordering stress by creating efficiencies so providers can spend less time managing supplies and more time caring for patients. In turn, healthcare providers can enjoy less stress and more satisfaction in their positions while patients enjoy similar satisfaction reflected in their quality of care.
Urgent Care and Freestanding Emergency Departments
Healthcare consumers want greater convenience and access to care, which means forgoing an emergency room visit or visit with their primary care physician and instead finds them flocking to alternative specialty clinics and facilities. From emergencies, sudden onset conditions such as vertigo, to patients suffering from the flu and flu like symptoms, patients seek alternative clinics such as retail convenience clinics, urgent care or Freestanding Emergency Departments (FEDs).
FEDs, for example, are trending in various parts of the country, particularly in parts of Texas. FEDs provide emergency care services in a standalone facility separate from an acute care hospital. Some studies have suggested that the services provided by FEDs can cause increased healthcare costs and the services could be delivered in a lower-cost setting.
Trends to watch in 2020 include the continued proliferation of convenience clinics and urgent care facilities. Along with continued expansion, these clinics will also expand their service offerings to include additional health screenings. To manage rising emergency healthcare costs, we may also see policy makers regulating FEDS and their billing practices more carefully in 2020 as well as whether these clinics continue to spread across the U.S. and what hospitals will do in response.
Concordance Healthcare Solutions focuses on understanding our customer needs so that we can create customized supply chain management portfolios. Contact us to discuss how we can help meet your supply chain needs in 2020.