Topic: How Technology Can Strengthen The Medical Supply Chain
As the country fluctuates between open and closed and regulations vary from state to state, Covid-19 cases are increasing, and the full reality of the pandemic has set in. With the U.S. topping 20 million novel coronavirus cases as of this writing, many hospitals across the country have been in desperate need of critical medication and supplies. As a result, healthcare and biopharmaceutical companies are rushing to manufacture products as quickly as possible.
Before they can receive critically needed inventory, hospitals face a daunting hurdle: working with ineffective supply chains that may be using ill-equipped distribution models. Following initial shortages and delays at the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare executives should look for long-term supply chain solutions. In an effort to create availability for life-saving items such as medication, personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices, they can turn to technology solutions for the answer.
Initial Response To Medical Shortages
This concept is something that recently affected us all. When the first wave of Covid-19 hit the U.S., supply chains were overwhelmed as stores nationwide ran out of toilet paper, disinfectant products and other essentials. We all remember the fear and anxiety of walking through the empty grocery store aisles not knowing where our next roll of toilet paper would come from. Some turned to family and friends to lend a hand — or in this case, a roll. Likewise, hospitals nationally experienced inconsistent inventory levels, likely as a result of the fragile medical supply chain. Some hospitals experienced dire shortages of PPE. The initially reported high need for ventilators created panic as factories quickly worked to meet the demand, only for the need to dissipate, which led to excess supply. Multiple weaknesses in the supply chain were exposed, and hospitals were forced to respond to shortages during what is likely the most formidable healthcare crisis in our lifetime.
Supply Chain Impact On Medications
As global efforts to produce and distribute vaccines and vaccinate frontline workers continue to increase, other essential medications run the risk of shortages. Even in early May, the FDA added 11 new generic medications to its shortages list. Once a drug leaves the manufacturer, there is often very little visibility to where it ends up. Within the present system, it is difficult to track and trace what happens during the drug’s journey, from the distributor to the hospital and ultimately the patient. There are many heartening signs of scientific and societal progress as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues and government officials announce new national plans for the next phase of the nation’s Covid-19 response. Even so, many hospitals may not be currently prepared to effectively receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Distribution issues within the supply chain eventually affect patients, such as the possible shortage of glass vials used to store vaccines. Equally terrifying is the fact that there have already been shortages of propofol, an essential medication in the operating room. There have been shortages in the past — as recent as 2019 and as old as 2004. Clearly this is not a new issue, and I believe the healthcare industry is at risk of repeating history if adjustments to prevent healthcare supply chain challenges are not rapidly implemented.
Topic Discussed: How Technology Can Strengthen The Medical Supply Chain