When we’re considering the added value of IT within the healthcare sector, we are used to considering innovations like digital consults, the importance of electronic health records, and the necessity of safely sharing that data between internal and external healthcare professionals. Rightly so, as digitization has improved the overall quality of healthcare, as well as the client experience in most cases, and it has lowered the associated costs. Yet, there is still a whole world to conquer among healthcare activities which take place a little further from patient beds. Logistic processes, for instance.
The daily flow of goods into hospitals is massive. Where empty shelves are unpleasant for consumers and may cause businesses a loss in sales, the late delivery of medicines, or a shortage of essential products for diagnostic trajectories, could present a severe danger to the emergency treatment (and thus the health) of patients.
On the other hand, healthcare institutions don’t always have sufficient storage to be able to maintain a large stock on hand, especially when extraordinary storage conditions are required, or products have particular short expiry dates, or when waste and residual products with the need for special care or treatment are involved.
Optimizing the logistic process of hospitals and other healthcare institutions
Over time, an ecosystem has been developed among distributors, transporters, operators of distribution centers, and healthcare institutions that has proved to be reliable. Parties communicate and closely cooperate on a daily basis. But that is no guarantee that the process in itself is efficient.
Whenever I’m in a meeting with logistic service providers, exactly the same questions are discussed when talking regarding other healthcare processes: how could we better serve the institution in question –and how to lower costs if possible? The concept of cost is evaluated from a broad perspective: storage costs, transport costs, and costs that are acquired when certain goods are not delivered or arrive too late. The question is, would it be possible to design the logistic process more efficiently than the current model?
Yes, it is. For example, we’ve established a collaboration with a party like Trancon, a specialist in the automation of logistic processes through software solutions. As they focus on the logistic processes and the agreements between transporters and warehouses, we, as the integration solution provider, provide the solutions to link Trancon with the back office systems of hospitals and other healthcare institutions.
It is still very common for organizations to have personnel in their logistics department registering package slips manually and processing fax messages. A massive leap in efficiency would be possible here, up to a reduction of about one or two FTE per hospital. This also makes the process (and its documentation) more trustworthy, insightful, and safer –for instance, as regards the safeguarding of clients’ personal data or the reduction in the cost of failure.
The use of mutual digital integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) makes real-time and safe sharing of information possible.
In fact, four parties are coming together: the supplier (also called ‘shipper’ in logistics), the logistic service provider (transporter), the party providing storage in a warehouse, and the originator: the hospital.
This may not sound like a technological revolution, which it really isn’t. Rather, it is the typical idea of low-hanging fruit. Only existing services and already present systems are linked together in a cloud environment. There are no new protocols involved, but simply the translation of protocols into this shared environment: the digital platform. And that is where the IT service provider comes in.
A vulnerable attitude
There are benefits on multiple fronts with this efficiency improvement. An optimal delivery is not only beneficial for the client, but also for the transporter. Margins on transport by road are minimal. Half an hour delay, or even a deviation from the optimal tire pressure could make the difference between profit and loss. An extra trip, because of a wrongly copied order, costs money. The financial pressure on all the other partners within the same chain isn’t any less severe.
What we see in this market is that a growing number of chain partners are ready to openly discuss these challenges and risks with others. Each of them faces pressure on their business models. By mutually looking for solutions, with an IT party functioning like Haarlem oil, a whole range of ailments in the logistical system can be treated.