How to manage clinical supply challenges and bottlenecks

Supply and procurement are highly complex systems, including many dependencies that hospitals, clinics, and related healthcare providers have little control over. However, there are still specific steps you can take to minimize the chance of getting caught up in a supply shortage.

Addressing unexpected supply gaps and bottlenecks requires an overall strategy that considers the roots of both the supply and demand sides of the problem. Let’s look at the key steps in creating an effective sourcing strategy.

1. Demand forecasting and management

Crisis such as a pandemic causes a great demand shock for healthcare systems. Healthcare systems are usually almost at full capacity. Therefore, good forecasting is important to avoid supply shortages and bottlenecks. While it may seem impossible to predict demand with some accuracy, most healthcare providers have sufficient historical data to make rough, but still useful, short-term forecasts. Healthcare providers can also notify forecasts and stay on top of procurement and resource teams, taking into account metrics such as population density, social distance policies, daily test rates, and test processing times.

2. Plan supply issues and bottlenecks

Even the most robust supply chains can have bottlenecks in the event of unexpected demand. In highly interdependent supply chains such as Australia and New Zealand, bottlenecks tend to move up and down the value chain. For example, if you have extra test kits, you may be limited in test capacity due to lack of swabs.

To stay ahead of supply shortages, you need to anticipate the next possible bottleneck in your supply network. This requires the supplier’s ability to procure available inventory and new inventory, as well as up-to-date information on unique demand patterns and consumption rates. Having a historical view of supplier capabilities and visibility into the procurement process for a particular product can be very helpful in preparing for bottlenecks in surge situations.

3. Move to digital process

The healthcare sector is renowned for its reliance on manual and paper processes. Digitization is sneaking up on various hospital departments, clinics, and related healthcare organizations, but it is still inconsistent and has been delayed in adoption.

However, you don’t have to digitize your entire organization to see the benefits. Removing manual processes from some operational features such as procurement is very beneficial. The move to digital processes has been shown to reduce errors, save significant time, and significantly improve organizational agility.

With live inventory, item tracking, and data from devices, equipment, and people, procurement can quickly identify inventory losses and shortages and respond quickly. If your suppliers are also digital, as your entire supply chain becomes more visible, the benefits will increase over time, allowing you to plan your procurement more accurately.

4. Understand the supplier

Relationships with suppliers are an important part of an organization’s ability to get the resources it needs at the right time. We aim to map key suppliers several layers upstream to better understand their strengths and limitations. You also need to pre-establish relationships with key resources and people in your supply network long before a potential crisis occurs.

We also prioritize suppliers that can be procured locally. They tend to be more agile and responsive, and placing them on the supplier’s panel also spreads the risk. Procuring locally can mean higher cost of capital and lower economies of scale, but lower transportation costs, shorter travel times, and local support can offset these shortcomings. ..

5. Foster a culture of collaboration

Developing an effective operational culture is an important element of risk management. For example, senior management should strive to eliminate interdepartmental silos. It is important to allow individuals to freely discuss risk while sharing learning and best practices across departmental boundaries. This type of collaboration between departments provides greater operational visibility across the organization, while at the same time providing the opportunity to share resources and discover supply efficiency.

By following these steps, your organization can procure valuable clinical supplies and reward you with a network of trusted partners who are on your side in good and bad times.

Get in touch with Thermo Fisher AU Contact us today for a selection of clinical PPEs, critical care centers, consumables, accessories, and devices for healthcare providers. Request samples to discover how Thermo Fisher’s clinical products can help staff provide the highest levels of care for their patients.

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