Strategic Visions: A Deeper Look at the Role of Supply Chain Leaders in Healthcare

A recent survey in Medical Economics verifies what inventory managers suspected. Supply chain problems now impact every hospital in the United States.

99% of respondents dealt with supply procurement problems last year—to the point that their teams found themselves short of "key items." The pandemic posed financial and operational hurdles to every link in our supply chains.

To overcome these challenges, hospitals and suppliers will have to make some radical changes. Today, healthcare needs supply chain leaders with game-changing visions.

What does that vision look like in practice?

Read on to discover an in-depth look at the roles supply chain leaders currently play in global healthcare. Then, explore the insights and strategies great leaders propose to thrive in the years to come.

Traits of Visionary Healthcare Supply Chain Leaders

Each supply chain leader takes on multiple roles. Each role works to meet logistic challenges inherent to supply chain management. An effective supply chain strategy undergirds every choice you make in each role. This is very apparent in the current environment and observing supply chain leaders evolve, accept leadership, and adapt to current challenges is refreshing.  

Visionary supply chain leaders manage people and systems. This management typically involves:

  • Analyzing trends in supply and demand
  • Using appropriate real-time data to drive  decisions
  • Negotiating production, purchasing, and distribution contracts
  • Improving supply chain efficiency
  • Building the supply chain's resilience with a multifaceted approach

There are multiple leadership roles within a hospital supply chain. Hospital CFOs, COOs, and Nursing managers all contribute their expertise to core decision-making processes. Leaders often share key traits that strengthen their approach to the role.

Supply chain leadership needs to be trustworthy. Leaders build trust with transparency and common goal setting. They communicate actions clearly, and they show how strategic objectives mesh with visionary goals.

When leaders show themselves to make effective decisions, reliably, trust grows naturally.

Tools and Strategies for Next-Gen Inventory Management

How do supply chain visionaries approach the challenges of our present moment? And how will they create a better, stronger supply chain for the future?

Today's hospital inventory teams have more tools and strategies to work with than ever. As technology progresses, innovation in the field expands. Some of these innovations are straightforward pieces of technology: physical tools and software.

Others are social technologies. These systems and strategies empower people to work smarter:

  • To communicate better
  • To approach tasks more efficiently
  • To navigate space more strategically

In the world of supply chain leaders, there are six critically important task categories. Each category enables supply chain leaders to put their best traits to critical use.

Supply Chain Leaders Elevate Medical Demand Forecasting

Medical demand forecasting is the practice of predicting the medical needs of future patients. What medicines and surgeries will a hospital need next month? How many devices should a practice purchase or replace next year?

Accurate forecasting is critical to the effective allocation of resources. Supply chain operatives are elevating demand forecasting by using Big Data and machine learning tools.

Leaders have an array of algorithmic options for effective predictive modeling. In 2020, researchers effectively predicted medical equipment demand in Turkey. They used stacked Long-Short Term Memory (LSTM) networks.

LSTM networks use nodes that mimic neurons in the human brain. It's a machine learning network that pushed statistical modeling forward in leaps and bounds. Hospital supply chain leaders have also used hybrid statistical modeling to great effect.

A recent study paired ARIMA with a self-adaptive filtering method function. ARIMA is an autoregressive model.

Hospitals were able to use the pair of analytical tools together to predict the daily volume of outpatient visits to a hospital. The study showed pairing the two statistical models generated a more accurate projection than either alone.

Batch Tracking: Coordinated, Traceable, Efficient

Batch tracking is a critical tool for supply chain leaders in any system. In healthcare, it's often legally mandatory.

Batch tracking lets stakeholders monitor sets of products grouped by similarities. It clarifies which groups are responsible for which items, and it enables real-time location tracking.

Batch tracking empowers hospital CFOs to better navigate sourcing dynamics. They can determine where defective products came from, and factor that into their choice of suppliers. Effective batch tracking systems also streamline the safe disposal of expired products.

Routine Maintenance and Asset Lifecycle Tracking

Maintaining medical equipment is routine, but it can't be allowed to slide. Hospital supply chain leaders integrate maintenance and lifecycle tracking into their vision. This keeps equipment functional longer. And, it enforces safe, on-time disposal of outdated supplies.

Some inventory managers invest in RFID tags for medical devices. RFID tags are a useful tool to automate asset tracking. Other tools are lifecycle management systems—often integrated into broader inventory management systems.

Leaders may also take advantage of tools to develop and adjust maintenance and sanitization schedules.

Systems to Categorize, Organize, Prioritize

Leaders utilize diverse systems to implement a supply chain strategy. In hospitals, there are systems to categorize, organize, and prioritize supplies. The best systems make it easy to know:

  • What needs to be ordered
  • How soon you'll need it
  • Which suppliers to order from
  • Alternate methods to get necessary supplies

Suppliers and manufacturers also make these calculations. Priorities are particularly critical amid any materials shortage. The 2-Bin Kanban System is one such system: it uses automatic, visual techniques to make urgent supply needs obvious.

Automate Almost Everything

The fewer steps it takes to get the supplies you need, the better. That's why supply chain leaders are invested in innovative automatic tactics.

Supply chain operators can automate tasks like:

  • Filling out forms
  • Checking out equipment
  • Placing orders
  • Receiving and delivery of supplies with a clear chain of custody

This streamlines supply chain operations.

Last year, researchers studied a fully automated, integrated inventory replenishment system for hospitals. The system reduced the unavailability of assets by 99.98% in the pharmacy.

Moreover, automated systems free nurses from the burden of logistics tasks. Automation also improves the accuracy of inventory data by reducing human error.

Contingency Plans

Finally, visionary supply chain leaders develop contingency plans. A contingency plan helps an organization prepare for a high-risk but unlikely event. Ultimately, a contingency plan is a risk-assessment tool for unusual circumstances.

The Center for Disease Control publishes a supply chain disaster preparedness manual. It gives recommendations by subject-matter experts to hospitals and public health officials.

No single leader can control all aspects of the global supply chain. Visionary leaders develop their contingency plans with input from experts.

Visionary Leadership, Premium Supply Chain Solutions

A plan is only as good as the tools used to execute it. That's why supply chain leaders look for the best. At BlueBin, our innovative supply chain solutions strengthen every stage of inventory management.

Typical hospitals increase clinical satisfaction by 35% with BlueBin, this correlates to improved patient satisfaction scores. And, for the C-Suite’s continuing struggle to overcome financial burdens of current healthcare, hospitals save $80 million every year with our systems.

Ready to elevate your supply chain management? Talk to a BlueBin consultant today.


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