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Maintaining a healthy supply chain a must

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Manoj Ahlawat, AVP-Supply Chain Management, Max Hospital, talks about the scope and challenges on healthcare supply chain management

How important is it to have a systematic supply chain management in private hospitals and how does it help in operational functioning?

Healthcare supply chain management involves obtaining resources, managing supplies and delivering goods and services to patients or HCPs (healthcare practitioners). Healthcare supply chain management is unique because each stakeholder has their own interests to protect. Doctors may want to use a specific product because they were trained with it, whereas hospital executives aim to purchase the most affordable quality items. Also, as we all know healthcare industry is very critical with respect to product availability where the patients’ life is at stake, all critical life-saving products should be available all the time without any delay for which a systematic approach is a must. The vast scope of information system and SCM relationships can result in solving the purpose effectively.

Do you think automation and data analytics will enhance the supply chain management?

For every industry, data-driven supply chain has a productive, competitive and efficient impact on decisions. Data analysis can definitely lead the supply chain industry which ultimately can improve the volume of sales, improve brand strategy, marketing methods or campaigns and much more. But all this can be done only if we know how to extract accurate and relevant data and analyse it. This data can be used extensively in supply chain for planning, product launches to replenishment planning, scheduling of resources and assets, landed cost, transportation analysis, demand planning, vendor analysis, PO analysis, SKU rationalisation, etc. Definitely, if we have a systematic approach which can reduce the manual dependency, it will help increase the overall productivity.

What are the advantages of having a clinically integrated supply chain?

A clinically integrated supply chain is the collaboration of supply chain professionals, clinicians and senior leadership to make more informed product choices that support quality outcomes while reducing waste and lowering costs. Primary objectives of clinical integration are standardising products and reducing product variation. By engaging clinicians, especially in standardisation efforts, a hospital can create a formulary that not only lowers costs, but also meets clinical needs. In addition to the cost benefits, there’s less time required to manage suppliers and products. Ordering similar products from more than one supplier adds unnecessary hard and soft costs. But standardisation can reduce the number of supplier relationships, purchase orders and other paperwork, as well as shortening the time to stock products.

Can online-based medical supplies procurement have the capability to create or make a radical shift from complex offline supply chain systems to an efficient and transparent online platform? Reasons?

Online-based supply chain management uses an analytical approach to improve the supply chain. Its benefits may include the reduction of waste and shipping delays. Past data, such as sales reports or other financial reports, are used to understand past trends and create future forecasts for inventory. Forecasting inventory based on past trends helps you to reduce overheads, since you have a better idea of how much inventory you will need and when. Unlike the offline supply chain system, online-based system can be faster and effective, also the data can be safely procured and available at one touch.

Do hospitals get access to the huge product catalogue, brand choice and price in online purchases? If yes, how? If no, why?

Yes, lot of online medical product purchase platforms have come and are trending. Online portals provide the electronic means for medical equipment manufacturers to communicate online with their customers while supporting the purchasing process and post-market surveillance. Its main advantage is the fast, reliable and up-to-date retrieval of information while eliminating all unrelated content. The portal accepts end-user requests and generates a list of results containing text descriptions of devices, links to manufacturer web pages and online catalogues for access to more detailed information. That means, vast information is available to the user at one touch and is getting exposed to multiple brands.

How is technology transforming supply chains? How are they helping to build new digital logistics models to bring in new efficiencies and improved customer experience?

It’s imperative for companies to continually innovate and streamline their supply chain and software likely provides the greatest advantage. The right service supply chain technology enables a company to create greater visibility within the supply chain, gain more control over inventory, reduce operating costs and ultimately, outpace the competition. Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, barcodes and scanners are vital pieces of equipment that can provide innumerable benefits to your business. For example, RFID chips or barcodes can be placed on every product, which gives the company a way to easily track inventory. Paired with RFID technology, cloud-based computerised shipping and tracking further simplify the supply process and can dramatically reduce shipping errors. Such SCM technologies make it easy to reduce the time spent on shipping, receiving, tracking and compiling order data.

What are the most-daunting barriers and challenges you face as a supply chain manager in the healthcare segment and how do you overcome it?

Supply chain managers have seen increasing challenges to create and keep efficient and effective supply chain methods. Few of the major challenges include customer service, cost control, planning and risk management and supplier/partner relationship management. Moreover, customers’ expectations nowadays are more demanding than ever. Companies have responded with global networks, product innovation and market expansions. This means that companies now rely on supply chain managers to optimise their value chains in order to stay competitive. In order to achieve this goal, we have to keep ourselves updated with the latest technologies.

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