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5 technologies that are poised to disrupt the healthcare supply chain

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The supply chain has carved out a critical role for itself as the healthcare industry shifts to a value-based model.

In today’s evolving business environment, a data-rich supply chain contains the fuel that will help healthcare stakeholders tackle big industry challenges, including reducing variation through insights into which products work best for which patients.

In the years ahead, we expect innovative technologies to facilitate supply chain advancements that will help the industry deliver against its mission of providing better care at lower costs. Here are five technologies that will play a prominent role in the healthcare supply chain’s continued evolution.

Artificial Intelligence
It’s exciting to see AI technology already being adopted in healthcare, especially around the ability to use genomics, socio-economic and behavioral data to predict future patient needs. It’s also exciting to consider how the supply chain could utilize this data to better plan for the types of products and services required to support patient care. AI could also help predict potential shortages or backorders and enable the industry to ensure availability of products where they are needed, while avoiding overstocking areas where products are at risk of expiring before usage.

Internet of Things
There’s nearly endless potential for healthcare to leverage some of the IoT applications proven successful in other industries. For instance, modern HVAC systems are equipped with sensors that can detect when a particular component is close to failure. Over time, we may see sensors installed on implanted medical devices to provide similar advance warnings. Imagine a patient with a cardiac pacemaker and the value of knowing if a component is at risk of failing.

Not only could the technology proactively alert the patient, it could also signal the supply chain that new parts may be needed. IoT technology can also help the healthcare supply chain better monitor where various resources are in the healthcare system and enable the matching of products and services to patient needs as healthcare delivery expands beyond the hospital setting.

3D printing
3D printing is increasingly being used in healthcare and holds some interesting potential from a supply chain perspective, from lowering the cost of products to creating implants that are customized for individual patients. We may also see an an environment where hospitals and healthcare systems become manufacturers of the products themselves, further changing the nature of the supply chain and what products are delivered to whom.

Product tracking
Adoption of auto ID and capture technology continues to grow and will remain an important tool to both automate and improve the accuracy of data capture. As more products are labelled with unique device identifiers and production data—for example, lot and serial numbers and expiration dates—hospitals and healthcare systems can better track what products are used on which patients for cost and patient safety considerations.

This value is dependent upon providers utilizing more sophisticated scanners that can read both linear and 2D matrix barcodes. Given the difficulty of knowing which barcode to scan, adoption of intelligent scanners that can find the right barcode poses even greater potential for accuracy and minimizing the time nurses spend documenting supplies.

Use of logistics optimization tools
Logistics optimization has made huge strides in recent years thanks to AI-supported logistics technologies developed by companies like UPS and Amazon. As care increasingly moves beyond the four walls of a hospital, healthcare needs to adopt best practices from these logistics thought leaders.

For example, UPS has made significant investments in its On Road Integration and Navigation system (Orion), which helps ensure UPS drivers take the most optimal routes when delivering products. Hospitals and other health systems working on population health management could use these types of logistics tools to efficiently get clinicians, patients and products to the right places, at the right time, especially as delivery points exponentially increase beyond the walls of the hospital.

This list represents a small sample of the innovative technologies helping to shape the future healthcare supply chain. As silos between the supply chain and clinicians further dissolve, leaders across these disciplines will increasingly work hand in hand to deliver an unequaled quality of care for patients at a lower cost, thanks to the power of data and technology.

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