Just how healthy is the health care supply chain?
A typical healthy person doesn't always think about the state of his or her health until something happens and the body's status takes a nosedive. When we arrive at the hospital, we expect that our doctors and nurses have everything they need to make us and our loved ones better, or at the very least, comfortable during the duration of the stay. Ideally, facilities would be well-equipped and staffed properly, and all procedures would go smoothly. Of course, we don't live in an ideal world and occasionally, hospitals and clinics have to make do with what they have.

However, there are some ways to better the health care industry, starting with the supply chain. Once we can improve the health of this specific supply chain, we will be able to focus on improving the lives of the patients who benefit from it.

Supply chain struggles 

As with many supply chains across a wide array of industries, there are many challenges that hospitals and suppliers face when it comes to the health care supply chain. In a recent opinion piece penned for SupplyChainBrain, Vice President of Sales for Chicago Tag and Label Don Amato outlined several challenges that specifically plague the health care industry's supply chain. Amato noted that the excruciatingly precise nature of labeling, tracking and tracing is necessary for the job, but it is painstaking and often time consuming, a luxury that some patients don't have.

Big challenges that hospitals and supply chains face are keeping inline with expiration dates and preventing counterfeit machine parts and medications from entering into the health care facility. Counterfeit items could be stopped before they've even left suppliers if the supply chain conducted regular audits of different manufacturing plants. Should a fake part make its way into a hospital and malfunction while in the process of working in a machine on someone, the company itself would be responsible for the repercussions, and that could get expensive very quickly.

Expirations are an entirely different story, and while the impending dates cannot be avoided, there is a way to maximize use before products need to be thrown out, misusing time and money in the process.

Operating on the supply chain

Health care facilities waste a lot of money every year by throwing out expired products. Not only is this a poor use of resources, but it could potentially prevent the facility from purchasing something else that might save someone's life. Since this is such a problematic issue, RevCycleIntelligence sat down with Steve Kiewiet, Vice President of Supply Chain Operations at BJC HealthCare, and he asserted that better transparency from end to end may help save billions of dollars by eliminating the excess expenditure of precious resources due to expiration.

Kiewiet noted that hospitals may be able to eradicate waste altogether if the industry can find a model of supply and demand that takes time of year, location and the size of the patient base into consideration and determines how much of what medication or product is necessary at that time. Kiewiet has high hopes for such a model and believes that if hospitals and suppliers collaborate, we might be able to find a medium that keeps hospitals perfectly stocked without putting anyone's life in danger or wasting money by throwing away expired products.

Of course, we still have a ways to go before such a goal is accomplished, but it's vital that these challenges are addressed and we stop needlessly squandering our resources. People have enough to worry about when it comes to health, they shouldn't have to focus on other issues like how their health care's supply chain functions.
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  1. I appreciate the reference and agree that the healthcare industry has a great journey ahead of it to achieve true health and sustainability.
    Steve Kiewiet, BJC HealthCare