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    FEATURED STORY OF THE WEEK

    Eight Emerging Digital Solutions in Healthcare Logistics

    Written by :
    Team Uvation
    | 7 minute read
    |March 26, 2022 |
    Industry : healthcare
    Eight Emerging Digital Solutions in Healthcare Logistics

    The healthcare industry is under pressure to improve patient outcomes while reducing costs. Some
    opportunities in these areas lie within healthcare supply chains, where “during the pandemic, supply
    chain leaders worked the front lines alongside clinicians, suppliers, and other stakeholders to address
    questions around resiliency, product availability, and safe substitutions," SupplyChainBrain reports: “For
    supply chain professionals, the near-term focus should be on the redesign of the healthcare supply
    chain… around improved patient satisfaction, safety, and outcomes.”

     

    Healthcare manufacturers are turning to digitization and automation within their logistics operations to
    meet those demands. But challenges remain in how pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers
    can best improve product tracking, leverage data, align stakeholder interests, and coordinate with
    downstream supply chain partners including healthcare practitioners themselves.

     

    This article discusses the current state of healthcare logistics and identifies some of the major challenges
    faced by manufacturers today. It also explores opportunities for improvement, including digitization of
    the supply chain and building better relationships with downstream partners.

     

    Benchmarking Global Healthcare Logistics Today

     

    The healthcare supply chain is a complex and often opaque network of manufacturers, distributors,
    hospitals, and other stakeholders. Collectively and individually, these partners face a wide range of
    challenges that impact business and even health outcomes for patients themselves. These include:

     

    • Regulatory challenges. Regulations vary from country to country and can be extremely complex.
      Regulations including Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis Critical Control
      Point (HACCP) and the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). The DSCSA in particular is a
      recent regulation that imposes significant compliance requirements on healthcare
      manufacturers.

     

    • Special handling requirements. Meeting the special handling and shipping requirements of
      healthcare products is another challenge. For example, many healthcare products must be
      shipped under refrigeration or in isolation. It’s difficult to hold logistics partners accountable in
      some cases; supply chain disruptions often make appropriate handling difficult and therefore
      put inventory at risk.

     

    • Supply chain monitoring. Modern demand warrants ongoing monitoring and optimization of
      conditions that ensure the timely and safe delivery of medical products to destinations where
      they arrive at the right time of need. For example, countless patients require medications they
      cannot go without even for a day; poor monitoring means logistics partners can delay shipments
      without the awareness of manufacturers ultimately responsible for those timely deliveries.

     

    • Inventory management. Medical products are often customized to meet the needs of individual
      patients. Manufacturers must develop countless unique SKUs for their products as a result. This
      can make inventory management difficult and can lead to stockouts and other supply chain
      disruptions.

     

    • Cold chain management. As suggested, cold chain management is a critical component of
      pharmaceutical logistics, and yet it remains one of the most challenging. Once the global COVID-
      19 pandemic took hold, cold chain management became even more difficult. The need to ship
      healthcare products under refrigeration or in isolation increased, as did the complexity of the
      cold chain process. In addition, many healthcare manufacturers were forced to re-evaluate their
      cold chain operations considering the pandemic.

     

    These are only a few of the complex challenges within healthcare supply chains, which also include
    issues with supply chain visibility and communication among supply chain partners, among others.

     

    Digital Supply Chain Solutions That Improve Outcomes for Patients

     

     

    Several recent initiatives can improve transparency and collaboration within healthcare supply chains.
    Digital solutions such as track and trace systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and
    warehouse management systems (WMS) are at the forefront of this transformation. In addition,
    digitization can help healthcare manufacturers to comply with regulations such as the DSCSA.

     

    Here are just a few of the opportunities for healthcare manufacturers to digitize their operations and
    improve product logistics:

     

    1. Track and trace systems. By digitizing product tracking and tracing, healthcare manufacturers
    can improve supply chain transparency and collaboration.

     

    2. Communication and Collaboration. Healthcare manufacturers can improve communication and
    collaboration with their downstream partners using digital technologies such as enterprise
    resource planning (ERP) systems and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. By
    digitizing communication and collaboration, healthcare manufacturers can improve the
    efficiency of their operations and reduce the risk of supply chain disruptions.

     

    3. Data Analytics. Data analytics can help healthcare manufacturers to understand the trends and
    patterns in their product shipments. In addition, data analytics can help healthcare
    manufacturers to identify opportunities for improvement in their operations. Advanced
    capabilities such as predictive analytics can be used to predict demand for healthcare products
    and to forecast inventory levels as well.

     

    4. Blockchain. Digital ledgers can help track the movement of healthcare products through the
    supply chain. This technology has the potential to improve supply chain transparency and to
    reduce the risk of product recalls. Nearly half of healthcare manufacturers “have already
    deployed blockchain (44%) and predictive analytics (44%), while most remaining respondents
    plan to deploy these technologies in the next 12 months,” a recent survey by WBR Insights
    reports.

     

    5. Intelligent serialization. Intelligent serialization is a technology that uses data to track and trace
    healthcare products through the supply chain. This technology can help healthcare
    manufacturers monitor and account for individual units and comply with regulations such as the
    DSCSA.

     

    6. Robotics process automation (RPA). Robotics process automation (RPA) is a technology that
    uses software to automate repetitive tasks. This technology can be used to automate order
    entry, invoice processing, shipping, and countless other otherwise time consuming, labor-
    intensive processes that constitute modern healthcare supply chains.

     

    7. Contracts automation. Much like RPA, contracts automation can improve the efficiency of
    healthcare manufacturers’ operations and to reduce the risk of contract violations. Contract
    automation both reduces opportunities for human error and ensures the timely completion of
    contracts to avoid real logistics disruptions due to clerical problems.

     

    8. Internet of Things (IoT) GPS trackers. This technology enables manufacturers to gain real-time
    visibility into the location and condition of goods while they are in transit. This information can
    be used to improve the efficiency of healthcare product logistics and reduce risks associated
    with inventory loss.

     

    Digitizing healthcare products logistics in these ways can improve supply chain transparency, improve
    communication and collaboration with partners, and ensure manufacturers and their partners better
    understand trends and patterns in product shipments. Most importantly, they better align supply chains
    with patient outcomes—the ultimate responsibility of manufacturers and their partners.

     

    Building Momentum for New Digital Healthcare Logistics Solutions

     

    Manufacturers’ most immediate challenge is coordinating successfully with downstream partners to
    bring these solutions into effect. Indeed, one of pharmaceutical manufacturing logistics leaders’ biggest
    complaints is a lack of fervent communication on the part of their downstream partners.

     

    For example, news of shipment problems often arrives to manufacturers too late, effectively devaluing
    their products or even causing them to expire before delivery. In fact, “refrigerated equipment issues
    (52%), airport delays or port congestion (49%), and route deviations (47%) are their top three challenges
    to ensuring cold chain products maintain their validated conditions,” WBR Insights reports.

     

    Healthcare manufacturers who work with a logistics consultant who can understand their specific needs
    can develop tailored solutions that integrate seamlessly with their downstream partners, often where
    those logistics partners are most lacking. It’s through these proactive relationships that healthcare
    manufacturers can realize the benefits of new digital technologies based on their unique product,
    shipping, and end-customer needs.

     

    Partner with Uvation as you Digitize Your Healthcare Supply Chain

     

    At Uvation, we have a team of experts who can help you to digitize your healthcare product logistics,
    improve your downstream supply chains and build better relationships with your supply chain partenrs.
    Contact one of our healthcare logistics experts today for a free consultation.

     

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