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Strengthening the Healthcare Supply Chain

Healthcare supply chains have shown little immunity to the global forces that have plagued other industries’ supply chains in recent years. The pandemic and its aftershocks have exposed deep vulnerabilities in how healthcare systems and pharmaceutical companies source critical supplies. Unaddressed, these risks threaten to undermine the quality of patient care and profitability. Big data can strengthen the healthcare supply chain by helping teams build in the necessary redundancies to weather unexpected disruptions and make better decisions. 

How Data Is Revolutionizing Healthcare Supply Chains

According to recent research from Syft, 62% of hospital leaders reported that their organizations have failed to adequately address pandemic-era supply chain vulnerabilities and were ill-prepared to weather future disruptions. Today, forward-looking business leaders are leveraging modern cloud solutions and powerful data analytics tools to address these critical weaknesses. Creating resilient supply chains begins with data, including in-house data and data sourced from suppliers, partners, and third-party data marketplaces. But bringing this data together in a meaningful way can be a challenge. 

Challenges for Healthcare Supply Chains

Pandemic-related stressors, global instability, and an over-reliance on outdated systems and practices have proven that changes are needed to protect the modern healthcare supply chain. Here are three significant challenges that can be addressed with data analytics

Adapting to supply chain shocks

The post-pandemic world continues to tax even the most resilient supply chain systems. As the global transportation network struggles to return to pre-pandemic efficiency, port bottlenecks, labor unrest, global conflict, and adverse weather events continue to delay the return to normalcy. These disruptions have also impacted many of the key suppliers these industries rely on, creating a renewed sense of urgency to identify secondary and tertiary suppliers. 

Visibility into current inventory and future demand

Healthcare networks and pharmaceutical companies don’t suffer from a lack of data—they suffer from a lack of access to that data and the ability to derive meaningful insights from it. When data is siloed across multiple systems, blind spots make accurate planning impossible. Without real-time visibility into current inventory levels, impending supply shortages, patterns of usage, and how future shifts in demand are likely to strain the supply chain, planners are at a distinct disadvantage. 

Rising costs

Healthcare companies face significant pressures to control costs. As the cost of supplies rises, the need to make optimal purchasing choices has never been more important. A well-balanced inventory avoids wasting resources on excess inventory and warehousing costs while ensuring an adequate stockpile of supplies required to provide timely patient care and meet production schedules. 

How Data Is Strengthening the Healthcare Supply Chain

Data-driven supply chains are better equipped to withstand disruption. Data strengthens the healthcare supply chain in a variety of ways.

More-accurate prediction of supply chain disruption

Some disruptors are impossible to predict. But many adverse events can be foreseen with the right data and the capability to mine it for insights. Data related to adverse weather events, political unrest, port congestion, and production delays with key suppliers can all be used to identify disruptions before they evolve into major issues. 

Improved resiliency and contingency planning 

Maintaining supply chains capable of withstanding headwinds begins with robust contingency planning. By running a range of what-if scenarios, organizational planners can identify contingency options, including alternate suppliers and transportation methods, and create supply-sharing agreements with other healthcare organizations designed to mitigate temporary shortages in critical supplies. Data also enables the lead time decision-makers need to execute on contingency plans. 

More cost-effective purchasing choices

As the cost of supplies continues to rise, making cost-effective purchasing choices is more important than ever. Many healthcare organizations place their orders based primarily on historical demand data and physician preference rather than actual usage and anticipated future demand. When decisions are made using static data sources, they often result in suboptimal purchasing decisions that can leave organizations overstocked with certain supplies and precariously low on others. The same is true for pharmaceutical companies where accurately predicting future demand is essential for properly balancing production levels to meet actual demand. AI and predictive analytics perform queries on numerous sources including enterprise resource planning (ERP), materials management information systems (MMIS), supplier data, and more to track supplies at key points including the point of manufacture, while in transit and storage, and at the point of use. 

Broader visibility through third-party data supplementation

Supply chain analytics tools source data from a broad range of sources, both internal and external. Examples of third-party data may include demographic, economic, political, and environmental data. Supplementing available data with third-party data can enhance risk visibility and mitigation and help business leaders better understand impending changes in demand for certain healthcare services or medications. 

Optimizing Healthcare Supply Chains with the Snowflake Data Cloud

With the Snowflake Data Cloud, today’s healthcare organizations can create a more resilient supply chain. Snowflake has the performance, flexibility, and scalability teams need to load, integrate, analyze, and share your data securely. As a fully managed service, Snowflake is easy to use, yet powerful enough to run your analytics workloads with near-unlimited concurrency.

Eliminate data silos, combining your data from various systems, vendors, data partners, and third-party sources into a single source of truth. Easily and securely access and share a single copy of your data across your departments, business units, and subsidiaries; with your supply chain and other business ecosystem partners; and with thousands of organizations that make up the Data Cloud. Seamlessly connect cross-cloud and cross-region and enable global governance policies that follow the data. With Snowflake, you can proactively anticipate and react to supply chain disruptors, optimize costs, and minimize negative impacts to patients and providers.

Learn more about Snowflake for Healthcare & Life Sciences Data Cloud.