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Sourcing and Procurement

How healthcare supply chains can move towards post-COVID resilience

The novel coronavirus brought everything to a jolting halt last year. While the world came to terms with the ‘new normal,’ the healthcare industry struggled to cope with the sudden spike in demand for their services.

The global pandemic significantly exposed weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the healthcare supply chain. A significant concern was the industry’s sole focus on minimising costs and ensuring just-in-time deliveries. The lack of planning, streamlined healthcare supply chain management (SCM), and foresight impacted key stakeholders.

For healthcare equipment providers and suppliers, the difficulty in sourcing essentials like personal protective equipment (PPE) has been the biggest supply chain challenge related to COVID-19.

Why is supply chain management increasing in importance for healthcare ?

The healthcare SCM system is challenging primarily because of the vast number of stakeholders involved. Issues such as lack of automation, unstructured or inaccurate data, poor product standardisation, and more only add to this complexity.

But now more than ever, agile end-to-end supply chain management is crucial in this domain to:

  • Reduce operational costs and make smarter financial decisions.
  • Improve logistical workflows and optimise the supply chain lifecycle.
  • Build healthcare organisations that are resilient to various kinds of crises.

How to reinforce the healthcare supply chain, post-COVID-19

Think of the healthcare supply chain as an immune system. Streamlining the healthcare supply chain should be a C-suite priority so that it’s capable of warding off any undesirable impact. Healthcare SCM processes should incorporate the following into the mix:

  • Strategic sourcing
  • Getting creative with your partnerships, finding and allying with new sources of supplies, spreading or diversifying the sourcing network geographically, and ensuring that your suppliers have their own contingency plans are indispensable for healthcare organisations today.

  • Inventory management
  • Shoring up supply sources, rotations to avoid expiry, short- and long-term plans for stock replenishment, implementing automated systems for real-time tracking, and having reliable visibility into stock levels are essential for healthcare systems to become sufficiently resilient.  

  • Digital transformation
  • Shifting to cloud ERP and investing in cloud-based technologies and IoT, as well as adopting novel digital solutions is the way forward for healthcare supply chains that are looking to embrace modernisation to achieve data integrity. In the post-COVID era, this could prove to be the difference between enterprises that may or may not sustain themselves and thrive.

  • Cost management
  • Not surprisingly, SCM costs are the second-biggest expense for healthcare players after staffing. Cost management revolves around making smart decisions that can reduce wastage, enhance risk management processes, enable better budget planning, and identify opportunities to cut costs wherever possible (bypassing vendors, for instance, or collaborating with third-party logistics partners).

  • Data and analytics
  • Your core supply chain data must be clean, accurate, current, and easy to manage. Healthcare supply chains must be equipped to accurately capture and analyse data to make informed decisions around sourcing, material procurement, inventory stocking, etc. With predictive analytics, organisations can plan their supply chain operations around current and future needs, while relying on the power of data to improve processes.

  • Automation
  • Automation is the key to an efficient and cost-effective SCM process in healthcare because it reduces data collection errors and human mistakes, as well as help track and analyse data better. In case of disruptive events such as an unprecedented pandemic, healthcare setups can respond swiftly to shortages and use available resources better.

  • Better transparency, communication, and collaboration
  • Price transparency using technology like RFID can aid insights into demand and lets you stay on top of things. Transparency eventually helps identify bottlenecks early and deliver swift resolutions to issues before they become roadblocks. Communicating and collaborating with key stakeholders and the government, too, is important in complex supply chains because everyone stays in the loop and there’s more distribution control.

  • Reliable procurement
  • The glaring shortage of medical equipment and essential supplies was evident when the first wave of the pandemic was at its peak. It caused a lot of chaos across healthcare networks, forcing organisations to look for alternative supply sources, figure out cost variances, and take on more risks than they would normally do. Establishing centralised procurement processes is essential to bolster the healthcare supply chain.

Tap into next-gen sourcing and procurement solutions by Infosys BPM

Infosys BPM offers cutting-edge sourcing and procurement services to help make smarter decisions with better insights to navigate your next. Our suite of solutions includes:

  • Advanced analytics and reporting solutions for S&P
  • Artificial intelligence and robotics-led automation
  • Design thinking and ‘fit-for-purpose’ value solutions

View our client success stories on reducing costs using spend analysis, delivering benefits worth $1.7 million by leveraging advanced analytics and automation and building invincible supply chains.

Navigate your next with Infosys BPM - the leader in healthcare procurement consulting solutions. Learn more about our dedicated sourcing and procurement outsourcing services today.