Most people know the story of Job- the righteous man whose faith was tested by God. He lost his children, his wealth, his possessions and was beset with boils, but his faith prevailed.
Because he was righteous and resilient.
So far, 2020 has been the healthcare supply chain’s test of faith and righteousness.
Continuing from where the last blog left off, 2020 dawned with healthcare and its supply chain looking like this:
Then in mid-January, life as we knew it began to change forever when a novel new Coronavirus presented itself in Wuhan Province, China and was given the appellation “Covid-19”.
A very, very few IDNs were watching the scene closely. One of those that were was Charlie Miceli at the University of Vermont Health System. Miceli’s system was a subscriber to Resilinc, a Software as a Service provider whose focus was on monitoring activities across the world that could impact the supply chain. Very early in January, Resilinc reported on the outbreak. Miceli was watching and swung into action immediately. He and his team quickly identified the SKUs associated with pandemic- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, cleaning solutions, etc. and immediately bumped up the inventory levels of all those products and strengthened his agreement with his main suppliers to guarantee stocking. Not stopping at that, he instructed his staff to immediately start looking for alternative suppliers and put additional agreements in place as a contingency. He established a key operational Command and Control Unit and began to manage the situation as of a major pandemic had already arrived. He reached out in the region and formed a collaborative with Dartmouth Hitchcock and others in the region. In short, he implemented a collaborative contingency plan way before the danger was clearly identified. What he did was akin to boarding up the house and building supplies of essentials and filling the SUV up with gas and stuff for a quick exit on the first day that someone identified that a storm was developing in the Atlantic. To the neighbors it looked stupid, but when the stuff hit the fan it was revealed to be pure genius.
While Charlie Miceli used his advanced warning system to get ahead of the curve, the preponderance of the healthcare systems and the country as a whole did little to prepare. There had been no pandemic in the U. S. since the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014 in which 11 Americans contacted the disease and two died. Prior to that, the largest pandemic was the H1N1 (Swine Flu) outbreak in 2009 in which 12,469 Americans died- a number far smaller than the number of deaths annually attributed to the common flu. In both cases, the country was well-prepared, responded quickly and life went on without interruption.
Eleven years passed without further incident. Then came 2020.
2020 would prove different.
The righteousness of the healthcare system and its supply chain was soon to be tested.
From the time of the first recorded case to the recording of the one millionth case, 98 days passed. It took 44 days to reach two million, 26 days to reach three million and another 15 days to hit four million. Today- August 6, 2020, the number of cases approaches 4.9 million and the number of deaths is about to surpass 160,000. Throughout that span of time, the country has been in unending uproar. Fear and finger-pointing have been the rules of the day. Product scarcity has led to panic purchases of unproven products, with pricing for those item exceeding the normal rates by factors of 2,3,10,20 times normal.
Throughout it all, Supply Chain leaders have soldiered on= making on-the-fly adjustments and heroic interventions along the way.
And along the way, they have learned that the system and the country cannot withstand another Covid-19 pandemic.
As I write this article, the First Wave has yet to abate. Several states are seeing record highs in both the number of cases and the number of deaths. Everyday life is non-existent as many people choose to remain inside and important aspect of life such as the start of the school year are still in doubt.
Most supply chain leaders are still engaged in the fight for their systems’ survival. It is too soon for then to conduct a post mortem. As the old saw goes: When you’re hip-deep in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your goal was to drain the swamp.
But as someone who has been a distant witness, I have some opinions of the issues that will have to be dealt with after the dust settles. Here are some thoughts:
In the course of a few short months, Covid-19 has not only broken open the box that is healthcare in America. It may well have shredded it. The supply chain has, at times been held together by bailing wire and bubble gum. The pandemic has become an accelerator for needed attention to the supply chain. Most organizations lack the resources and formal skill sets necessary to look at the supply chain from the macro to micro level. Consequently, most operations are sub-optimized and unable to successfully marshal the tools to conduct the planning and “what if” scenario analyses necessary to review multiple alternatives and select the appropriate courses of action. The next ten years will doubtless witness many changes in the way healthcare is viewed in the United States and the way care is delivered.
At the center of those changes will be the supply chain.
Since 1983 St. Onge Company has grown steadily and developed a client list that includes many Fortune 500 companies and several world-renowned institutions. We have completed approximately 5,000 assignments for over 1,000 clients located through- out the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, China and South America.
For our healthcare clients, we have developed a strong familiarity with the challenging logistics and related real-time issues associated with hospital operations, including campus supply chain strategies, materials management master plans, departmental optimization, facility designs and information systems to plan, direct and coordinate the movement of materials. Some of these solutions are highly automated; all are highly effective.
We possess the resources and skill sets to help healthcare face the challenges of the next decade and are eager to get started.
Next week: The Next Ten Years in the Healthcare Supply Chain
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