How to develop a more clinically integrated and strategic supply chain— 5 takeaways

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of the healthcare supply chain, as well as weaknesses in the data infrastructure among public health, health systems and other stakeholders.

Supply chain optimization has become a moral imperative in healthcare, as it is causally linked to patient safety and outcomes, as well as employee confidence to deliver optimal patient care. 

During a May webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Cardinal Health, three experts discussed how the health system supply chain can be a strategic asset that elevates clinical performance: 

  • Anne Snowdon, PhD, Chief Scientific Research Officer, HIMSS
  • Matt Bruggeman, Director of Distribution Solutions, Cardinal Health
  • Christina Tosto, Vice President of Operations, WaveMark™ Supply Management and Workflow Solutions, Cardinal Health

Five key takeaways were: 

  1. Clinically integrated supply chains support more resilient health systems. A clinically integrated supply chain supports tracking and traceability of products, care processes and provider teams. All of that information can be connected to individual patient outcomes. Clinically integrated supply chains have four characteristics:
    • Automation of work environments to minimize clinician burden and improve data flow to the point of care.
    • Clinical integration to enable clinicians to work with supply chain teams to deliver the best quality and value for patients.
    • Predictive data analytics to transform data into knowledge to inform decisions.
    • Governance and leadership to ensure that supply chain is a strategic asset that supports informed decisions.

  2. Supply chain leaders can leverage their partnerships to find the visibility they need to better advise their organizations. When asked if they had the visibility they needed in their supply chain to advise their organization, most attendees responding (53 percent) said they did not. According to Mr. Bruggeman, one of the biggest areas where providers can find more visibility in their supply chain is through their medical supply manufacturer and distributor partners, like Cardinal Health. These relationships can provide rich data to inform future purchasing decisions that might be better aligned to a facility's operational, financial, and clinical goals. Mr. Bruggeman recommended that health systems work in tandem with their manufacturer and distributor partners to create dashboards and utilization models that can better predict supply flow and help build targeted demand plans.

  3. New, advanced technologies can provide more visibility as products move from manufacturers to clinicians. Innovative tracking devices can now provide health systems with real-time logistics information such as mapping exactly where a product is in transit. In addition, distributors and manufacturers are leveraging machine learning to capture path tracking information from customers. This enables them to predict estimated arrival times for future shipments. "Once products arrive at the facility, the supply chain can become an even greater strategic asset," Mr. Bruggeman said. "But you need the visibility then to track the remaining product lifecycle, from the receiving dock to a clinician's hands."

  4. Supply automation is a major step on the journey to a clinically integrated supply chain. When asked if their organization has the supply management insights they needed to optimize their supply and clinical workflows, most attendees responding (61 percent) said they did not. According to Ms. Tosto, supply automation can provide insights to make optimal care decisions based on that specific patient population --- advancing organizations’ journeys toward a more clinically integrated and strategic supply chain.

    "An ideal supply automation solution captures global standard product data, connects product usage to the patient record, captures product data to maintain product availability and provides advanced analytics to support standardization of care," Ms. Tosto said.

  5. Organizations that adopt clinically integrated supply chains see clear benefits. "The return on investment for clinically integrated supply chains is evident," Dr. Snowdon said. "One large U.S. health system saw $1 billion in savings due to improved inventory management, a 29.5 percent decline in labor costs and a 33 percent decrease in supply costs."

    Clinically integrated supply chains also map directly to the quadruple aim. They improve the provider experience, have a substantive impact on supply costs and deliver better patient experiences and outcomes. The HIMSS® Analytics Clinically Integrated Supply Outcomes Model (CISOM)  is a good place to begin the journey to a clinically integrated supply chain. 

Ms. Tosto added that WaveMark™ is a certified organization for the HIMSS® Analytics CISOM program and offers a CISOM assessment to help health systems evaluate their current maturity. To view a recording of the session, click here

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