Some healthcare providers are coming to recognize the role that operational forecasts play in their supply chains, says Fourier. Still, “this is an industry that has lagged behind in supply-chain practices.”
For many in the sector, demand planning is a relatively new discipline. Up to now, companies have had little or no visibility of inventory – in fact, inventory management wasn’t even valued as a key talent. The focus was on patient outcome.
As a result, there were no centralized procurement activities, which are necessary in order to adopt a comprehensive approach to demand planning. Healthcare providers didn’t know how much of a given item to buy, or when they needed it.
Now, says Fournier, the industry is seeing “a huge shift” toward modern-day supply-chain practices. Hirings of supply-chain experts are on the rise. Gradually, providers are moving away from a system that saw doctors and nurses searching through hospitals for needed items.
“That’s not what they need to be doing,” says Fournier. “They need to be taking care of patients.”
Fortunately, companies are beginning to embrace both centralized procurement and storage locations. “Providers are getting together and actually consolidating and creating independent distribution networks,” Fournier says. “This is feeding into supply-management systems in the hospitals, then feeding back into procurement.”
Fournier likens the system to a retail supply operation drawing on point-of-sale data, with sales at the register replaced by consumption of items by patients. Companies today are getting more accurate data to create baseline forecasts. In the process, she says, they’re seeing “humungous savings.”
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