Over the past few weeks, the US has outpaced all the other countries to become a major hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst the rising pressure, the US healthcare system is also faced with the harsh reality of acute material shortages including ventilators, intensive care capacity, healthcare staff, masks, and even medicines to treat the infected. These healthcare supply shortages are largely hamstringing the heroic efforts of professionals in the US healthcare system to battle the pandemic. The US healthcare providers, now more than ever before, require the right supply chain management strategies to overcome supply shortages, optimize resources, and ensure the agile expansion of capacity.
This article from healthcare industry experts at Infiniti Research highlights some operations management and supply chain best practices for providers in the US healthcare system that are grappling with the sudden demand surges and supply shortages of healthcare resources.
Addressing supply and demand gaps in the US healthcare system
Managing healthcare delivery system
As the US healthcare systems continue to run at almost full capacity, extreme supply and demand shocks can be expected. The need of the hour for healthcare providers in the US is to proactively manage how patients enter and proceed through various nodes of the healthcare delivery system. During the COVID-19 outbreak healthcare providers are struggling with system congestion due to the increase in the inflow of patients. To manage the rapidly increasing demand due to the novel coronavirus, several hospitals are postponing non-critical surgeries and diverting patients not requiring critical care from hospital settings to home care. However, healthcare providers must complement this strategy with the right technology and infrastructure to support this such as telemedicine and mobile care units. Furthermore, having adequate visibility into short-term future demand provides hospitals and other care sites the opportunity to plan patient flows more efficiently.
Managing supply shortages and bottlenecks
Managing resources while providing adequate care to patients is not an easy task especially in the case of a highly contagious virus like the COVID-19. But failing to do so could also prove to be fatal and result in a vicious cycle that the US healthcare system has already started witnessing. During the existing crisis, healthcare providers are not just facing shortages in testing equipment and staff, but there is also a significant scarcity of protective gear for healthcare workers. This leaves them highly vulnerable to infection as the patient inflow to healthcare facilities increase. In countries like Spain and Italy, close to 15% of the COVID-19 patients consists of healthcare workers. A similar situation could make the existing healthcare staff shortage worse for the US healthcare system. Identifying the root cause of the supply bottlenecks and timely forecasting of probable bottlenecks in the supply of testing and protective equipment can help avoid such adversities to a large extent. Proactive and agile supply forecasting provides important visibility into the future state of the supply chain and enables organizations to effectively identify potential shortages well in advance. Pooling resources from other healthcare facilities in the country that have lower demand can also help stabilize the demand-supply gaps.
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