It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the international healthcare supply chain. While this disruption would generally present a challenging situation even in non-pandemic times, the staggering demand for healthcare supplies has only worsened the situation.
This was evidenced by an understocked, underfunded national stockpile that was not prepared to stave off a pandemic. According to National Public Radio, the pandemic has overwhelmed the Strategic National Stockpile that’s in place to support the nation during emergencies. While the system is trying to restock as we enter the winter, it’s still unlikely to meet the country's needs.
This raises issues of appropriate allocation and stockpiling when products are in short supply. It also calls into focus the importance of collaboration across the entire supply chain. While the nation is still responding to supply chain shortcomings, it doesn’t mean that the healthcare industry can’t learn from its inefficiencies to improve the decision-making process in the future.
Learning From a Global Pandemic
COVID-19 was unprecedented, but it wasn’t isolated. While inherently different from each other, natural disasters and global pandemics have similarities—and it’s inevitable that the world will continue to experience one or the other in the future. As we’ve reviewed, natural disasters can temporarily create an imbalance in supply and demand and disrupt the global supply chain with postponed or delayed deliveries, closed ports, and canceled cargo flights.
While natural disasters can cause short-term interruptions, global pandemics have long-term impacts. The COVID-19 pandemic initially had an acute effect on supply chains, but we’ve seen its lasting, chronic effects through increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and a strained healthcare supply chain. We learned the following about the global pandemic of 2020:
- Supply networks may be overly dependent on lower-cost suppliers and minimal inventory levels.
- Most healthcare systems only keep a modest inventory of healthcare supplies to anticipate future demand.
To learn from 2020, healthcare systems must consider strengthening supply chain resiliency. This means collaborating across the entire supply chain to create better visibility between manufacturers and distributors. The core competency of distribution is logistics optimization, and comprehensive healthcare supply chain management accounts for coordination across the entire supply chain. By relying on measures like efficient stockpiling to avoid allocation issues, purchasing directors and buyers can help mitigate supply chain shortages.
Effective healthcare supply chain management also means leveraging better data to make more informed decisions. Comprehensive supply chain management solutions provide invaluable insights into supply chain operations, including information about backorders, product substitution, allocation schedules, and shipping delays. This more comprehensive scope enables hospitals to explore spend data from all possible angles, which ultimately improves the decision-making processes.
Working to Improve the Supply Chain
While correcting a broken supply chain in 2021 is a reasonable goal, it is equally important to focus on the matter at hand. Healthcare facilities are currently most concerned that they’ll have products available to support demand as COVID-19 continues its spread. Maintaining inventory supply is always important, but it’s a critical step during a global pandemic. As cases fluctuate—and supply storage space remains limited—Concordance Healthcare Solutions will continue to provide resources to support healthcare facilities, employees, and patients.
StrategicStorage™ with its “living stockpile”, will receive, store, and deliver your products as your needs demand. Inventory is maintained as a “living stockpile”, which ensures product rotation on a first-in-first-out or first-to-expire-first-out basis. This helps improve sourcing and inventory management at the end-user level and alleviates the need for you to do the stockpiling.
Concordance offers resources, warehousing, and inventory management for staging, storing, and delivering supplies and equipment. Click here to learn how the Concordance StrategicStorage™ program with its living stockpile can ease your supply chain concerns.
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