Hurricane season brings with it all sorts of dire predictions, with many unknowns and variabilities in the impact of advancing storms. These uncertainties can force significant disruptions to event planning, services, travel, and activities. Potential results include the relocation of sports and entertainment events; cancellation of elective surgeries at impacted hospitals; rescheduling, rerouting and cancellation of travel, and preparation of hurricane shelters and evacuation routes. Amidst the scramble, however, the effect on patients and healthcare systems can be anticipated and predicted.
In these scenarios, important emergency messages are broadcast with significant warning times, especially in healthcare, where they highlight implications on patient safety. The goal is to ensure that patients and hospitals have adequate quantities of prescription medicines, hospital capacity, and essential supplies such as water.
Because hospitals are not approved hurricane shelters, critical services might have to be moved to safer locations. Adequate water and supplies must be made readily available.
During these critical periods, people must decide whether to stay or evacuate. Both choices have significant implications on the location of distribution points for supplies and services. Even those deciding to evacuate will need access to food, water and basic consumables.
All this disruption can wreak havoc on supply-chain operations, which are focused on delivering product to the right place, in full, at the right time. As hurricane season unfolds, the ability of supply chains to maintain visibility and manage risk becomes of critical importance to patient safety.
Oftentimes in hurricane situations, water shortages happen early, as people scramble to acquire supplies in excess of their normal consumption levels. Pockets of fresh water and emergency rations might be stored in other locations. What matters most is that those sources are visible and quickly accessible when needed.
The key lies in finding and routing extra items to higher-risk areas before a storm disrupts the supply chain. Crucial to the success of that effort is the ability to integrate supply chains with emergency services. Doing so enables companies to actively manage their supply chains and collaborate with on-the-ground resources and partners.
Manufacturers and retailers such as P&G, Coca Cola, Nestlé, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Walmart gear up their distribution capabilities based on the anticipated path of storms. Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe’s have historically planned for extra generators, tools and building materials such as plywood and plastic tarpaulins. This level of readiness impacts evacuators as well as patients in clinics and hospitals who are unable to relocate in the face of an oncoming storm.
The silver lining to this bleak cloud is that we live and learn through year after year of weathering storms, and get better at building integrated digital technology foundations to serve future scenarios. One example is pharma’s efforts to create a network platform that will enable participants to share information about hurricane relief efforts, as well as connect with suppliers outside the path of the storms. At the same time, the network will provide real-time visibility of product movements. Knowledge of where critical products and capacities are gives companies a valuable advantage when responding to natural disasters, and orchestrating the availability of supplies and medicine. No one needs to get left behind or forgotten in today’s pervasively digital and real-time world.
Today, we are quickly approaching the point where digital technology platforms will become the foundations of emergency preparedness and responsiveness. Instead of disparate systems and siloed, company-specific supply chains, digital technology platforms will bring together partners across industries for real-time collaboration and connectivity, as well as generate vast data sets to provide end-to-end visibility within supply chains. The goal is to leverage industry-wide digital technology platforms to truly enable patient and consumer safety, and product availability.
For anyone reading this and facing the impact of these storms: good luck, choose wisely, and stay safe!
Roddy Martin is Chief Digital Strategist with TraceLink.