Identifying and Addressing Medical Supply Chain Shortages, Disruption, and Other Challenges

Supply chains are how products get from point A to point B, from manufacturers to consumers. In the healthcare industry, efficient supply chains are necessary to ensure patients receive the best, most affordable care and physicians have the equipment they need.

Global supply chains were completely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic—it’s reported that supply chain disruptions spiked 67% in 2020. The pandemic put extreme stress on medical supply chains during a time when certain equipment and supplies were more necessary than ever.

Although two years have passed since the onset of COVID-19, experts warn of increasing medical supply chain disruptions. Healthcare leaders, hospitals, and organizations in the United States face the following medical supply chain issues.

Medical Supply Chain Shortages and Increasing Prices

Unexpected worldwide demand for essential medical equipment — personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, drugs, and hospital beds — caused soaring prices and shortages during COVID-19. It’s estimated that costs of certain medical supplies increased tenfold in 2020, according to the Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals (SHOPP). The American Hospital Association (AHA) estimates that America’s hospitals and health systems lost $202.6 billion between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020.

Not only were these shortages incredibly costly, but they made it challenging for hospitals to protect their staff and patients. While COVID-19 is a recent example of a medical supply chain disruption, “shortages of important medical supplies in the United States due to supply chain issues date back to as far as World World II,” according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

One study from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine found that medical supplies have been sourced from single regions in the world historically and to the present day. The study emphasizes the need for the United States to diversify its supply sources to avoid future medical supply chain shortages.

Current shortages of critical medical supplies, like contrast media, are causing delays in non-urgent procedures. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists more than two dozen medical items in short supply.

Lack of Visibility Due to Faulty Supply Chain Tracking

During the pandemic, the federal government asked hospitals to manually report inventory via Excel files, an approach that created more work for already overloaded healthcare workers. But hospitals track data differently — most of the data proved inconsistent and of little use.

Many hospitals have fragmented visibility or no real-time view of their inventory because they capture data from multiple sources. It may be challenging for them to see:

  • What equipment and supplies are in stock
  • How much equipment and supplies they have in stock
  • Where they can source supplies during an emergency

Even if hospitals have real-time access to their inventory, their systems may be unable to predict future demand. Hospital demand fulfillment is a very slow process. In cases of unexpected situations or emergencies, like COVID-19, hospitals may have to pay expensive shipping costs to receive equipment and supplies in time, which is detrimental to hospital revenue. A recent analysis found that 30% of medical facilities still struggle to obtain enough supplies with each new COVID-19 variant.

In 2019, the FDA launched a pilot program that supports the US Drug Supply Chain Security Act, which calls for the development of an electronic, interoperable system by 2023 to track prescription drugs as they are distributed across the supply chain. This shared blockchain network allows real-time monitoring of products.

Accurate supply chain tracking is necessary to reduce hospital facility costs and support the distribution of medicine. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for hospitals to invest in inventory management solutions to access and manage data across the entire supply chain.

Solve Medical Supply Chain Issues with Logistical Services

Healthcare professionals must navigate these complicated issues and more to succeed in today’s healthcare climate. Hospitals face integration challenges across the board and need systems to provide innovative healthcare logistics and support services.

Logistics and support services integrate and streamline medical supply chains to free up clinicians and staff so they can focus on providing healthcare to their patients. Trapollo’s Connected Healthcare Logistics & Support solution addresses these medical device supply chain issues and handles logistics management. We specialize in devices built for connected healthcare services — including support for remote patient monitoring and telehealth capabilities. Here are just a few of the services we provide:

  • Supply chain logistics – We assemble, ship, recover, clean, and redeploy devices for you. Our integrated cloud-based technology platform tracks the exact location of each component across your program, providing a centralized dashboard for continuous progress mapping.
  • Call center support – Working from our HIPAA-compliant call centers, our associates are trained to understand the patient population they’re addressing.
  • Program management – Our programs can be tailored to fit your needs and objectives. We design custom packaging, labeling, pairing instructions, and device configurations with you and your patients in mind.

With over 10 years of experience in connected healthcare industry logistics, Trapollo can provide efficient and effective solutions to scale. Contact us today to learn how we can be your single source for healthcare logistics and exceed your program requirements with improved cost savings.

mia-barb-headshot

For more than twenty years, Mia has focused her career on healthcare innovation to improve the patient experience while increasing quality and decreasing cost of care. She has managed projects and delivered solutions in a variety of consumer-driven healthcare, managed care and specialty medical management organizations. At Cox/Trapollo, Mia is especially passionate equipping consumers with the tools and solutions required to make their homes the new health hub.