Healthcare supply chain's No. 1 issue: a language barrier

While holding up an empty Gatorade bottle, Dan Hurry, chief supply chain officer of Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health, explained the biggest problem for the medical supply chain. 

Most products — including Gatorade and other food products, clothes, electronics and car parts — are marked with a Universal Product Code, a barcode with 12 numbers. The healthcare industry lacks these codes, Mr. Hurry, who's also the president of Advantus Health Partners, the system's supply chain management subsidiary, said. 

"We don't have [the] consistency and intelligence to make sound decisions as an industry because we don't have a universal language," Mr. Hurry told Becker's. "And it's the under-discussed underlying problem in the industry, in my opinion."

Take gloves, for instance. They were a hot commodity early in the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be vital for everyday work in hospitals. There are 9,000 different types in the U.S., meaning a high variation in production and distribution. 

"Let's say it's a bake sale and you wanted to [make] three dozen cookies. Would you spread that out to have everybody in the neighborhood do two cookies?" said Mr. Hurry, who has worked in the supply chain industry for more than 30 years. "The cost involved in that is going to be a little insane other than going, 'Let's just put three trays in the oven and be done with this.'"

As the industry works around this language barrier, he said the best hospital supply chain teams are fully aligned with clinical, operations and financial segments. 

"They're usually a step beyond," Mr. Hurry said of these teams. "Supply chain leaders that are heavily engaged with their peers or colleagues in the purchase services space, I think they're a little further advanced than the traditional [team] that might just be into deliveries that are coming in and making sure the shelves are stocked."

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