COVID-19 has shed light on the importance of having a connected health network to be able to more efficiently coordinate supplies and equipment across health sector facilities.
The difficulty in sourcing and distributing essential items and equipment that was experienced in some countries at the beginning of the spread of the virus was a call for a closer examination of the technology systems in health that can facilitate better information transfer and management.
This process starts with proper inventory management. A proper inventory management system can result in an easy flow, increased efficiency, lower cost and improved access.
The public health sector can also benefit from synergies with facility linkages and sharing of supplies. The same benefits can be accrued by private doctors’ offices with multiple locations. Purchasing in bulk is always much cheaper and easier than for individual facilities, and being able to easily see an overall picture where inventory is concerned will save a lot of effort and prevent errors.
This is where the technology is important. Many health information management systems or practice management systems have built in inventory management modules. There are others that can stand alone but it is advisable to ensure that health products are interoperable, that is, able to ‘speak to each other’ so that they can be connected if required, regardless of brand or supplier. These can manage a range of inventory, including pharmaceuticals, sundry items and even fixed assets and in the long run will prove to be worth the spend because of the savings from being able to quickly identify and use drugs, for example, before they expire, as well as fill resources gaps among offices.
Once a proper inventory management system is identified, then managers can focus on ensuring a connected supply chain to all their facilities. An integrated supply chain can have several benefits.
Collaboration among facilities does not only save money and other resources but also lives. If, for example, a facility in Montego Bay does not have enough of a piece of life- saving equipment, but they are in abundance in Kingston, having this knowledge beforehand and the ability to quickly mobilise the resource could mean the difference between life and death. A connected or integrated supply chain system can ensure that this information is always at the fingertips.
An integrated supply chain will also give a full picture of demand and allow managers to ensure that they are always in a position to fulfil the needs of their customers and focus on the areas that are most important and the items that are most used and needed for each location. This way, there will be less waste and more efficient use of resources all around. The ability to quickly respond to changes in demand is also heightened when there is a ‘bird’s-eye view’ of what customers need and access most.
PRE-EMPT DISEASE OUTBREAKS
Some time ago, I spoke to the fact that, with the use of technology, the health sector could have the ability to pre-empt disease outbreaks. The use of pharmaceuticals is an excellent way to tell what illnesses are circulating at any given time. An integrated supply chain management system is essential to get an accurate picture of this and to be able to act quickly.
The public sector and even the private sector, once aware, can begin to source supplies that would be needed to ensure there is no shortage when the situation worsens. In addition, supplies can be properly shared throughout the period and areas where there is the most need can be attended to quickly and easily. This is another benefit that would allow for more efficient management of disease outbreaks and other health events.
Importantly, a health sector that is able to adequately plan will serve the population more effectively, and this is also what an integrated supply chain and proper inventory management systems would allow.
The technology to do this is already available locally. The University Hospital of the West Indies, for example, has a Health Information Management System that can link the various areas of the facility. Many other private hospitals and medical practices are also putting in place systems that can achieve this.
Published: Sunday | November 29, 2020 | 12:12 AM