Streamlining supply chain processes at hospitals and other health care facilities has been an overriding objective for years, as leaders have attempted to increase their efficiency and cost-effectiveness while not sacrificing quality of care. The same trends that have made a mark in general logistics operations - primarily dealing with increasing digitization and the new possibilities unlocked by automation - can create major benefits in health care settings, provided departments can find ways to make them work within the highly regulated medical world.
Checking on projects that are already underway can provide some direction for health care providers considering new technology deployments and help illustrate the potential benefits of upgrading, as well as the roadblocks slowing the pace of progress. In a few years, digitization may be considerably more widespread in the medical sector, and now is a critical moment for health providers hoping to be the first to reap the benefits of new systems.
Zooming in on UCSF
A recent Supply Chain Digital report delved into the modernized procurement practices at University of California San Francisco Medical Center. This hospital ranked No. 5 in the nation in the latest U.S. News & World Report survey, and its operations are a model for other medical facilities. The supply chain team has embraced the automation of transactional and basic tasks, meaning employees are free to work on practices that will improve not only material logistics, but also the connection between internal departments.
Supply Chain Digital explained there are close connections between clinical staff members and supply chain "ambassadors," independent team members who communicate with clinicians about procurement needs. This relationship allows the supply chain to become an effective delivery method for essential patient care supplies, with availability customized to suit the unique needs of each individual receiving care.
In addition to tightening up practices within the health system's three hospitals, UCSF's supply chain department has used digital systems to create more precise agreements with suppliers. Carefully orchestrating the deliveries of the 78,000,000 products used by the medical center every year has allowed the logistics team to build efficiency and consistency, despite the imposing scale of the organization.
There's plenty of work to do for hospital supply chain leaders. Becker's Hospital Review recently highlighted the current top priorities of management teams at the top 50 care providers, according to the Global Healthcare Exchange. The most popular targeted outcome for these departments, felt by 59 percent of executives, is improved analysis and decision-making. After that come standardization of practices, optimizing contracts, boosting integration and broadening management of non-labor spend.
Becker's reported that GHX also discovered the means supply chain teams are using to pursue the aforementioned goals. They are focusing on areas such as improved procurement and inventory control, greater standardization, system integration, contract optimization and quicker addition of new systems after performing a merger or acquisition.
While supply chain upgrades aren't easy or straightforward - especially in a high-stakes field such as health care, these results indicate that managers have set worthy targets for their efforts. The next few years may see rapid and meaningful change in practices.