It’s no secret that the pharmaceutical supply chain has always been a critical component of the healthcare system, but some could argue that it had not received the attention it deserved until recently.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that while complex supply chains can self-operate to a certain degree, they are inherently fragile. And without proper safety protocols and oversight, the system can quickly break down when faced with unexpected pressures.
It taught us all a crucial lesson—priority must be given to patients in need of critical care and services. Failing to address patient needs and implement timely healthcare services can lead to devastating consequences, which is why it’s imperative that patient-centered care be a priority as we look ahead.
What does patient centricity mean in terms of pharma supply chains?
When it comes to pharma supply chains, the concept refers to an active healthcare approach taken to place patients at the forefront of all decision-making surrounding the availability and accessibility of medical supplies and services. Unlike most supply chains that often place the consumer at the end of the chain—typically by purchasing goods through online and in-store retail outlets—patient centricity is intended to ensure that an individual’s needs are taken into account from the start of the process.
With supply chain complexity comes extended lead times, variabilities in pricing, and a lack of visibility into the chain. But when considering pharma specifically, personal preferences are only one of many factors that must be taken into account, especially when lives may be at stake.
By prioritizing patient centricity, organizations can tailor their strategies to more effectively fulfill the unique needs of individuals. This necessitates that suppliers and manufacturers possess current, actionable data, along with the ability to promptly adapt to shifts in demand, while also upholding strict safety measures across the entire supply chain workflow.
Why should patient needs be a driving factor in supply chains?
While every single element of the process must be taken into consideration when providing medical care, adopting a patient-centric approach helps to ensure the following:
- Time-sensitive delivery: The impact of technology on modern supply chains has led to significant gains in efficiency. Nevertheless, healthcare operations still demand that attention is paid to a streamlined shipment process, since medical supplies are regularly required on an urgent basis. If deliveries are delayed, it can have serious consequences for patients. To address these situations, suppliers should have intermodal solutions in place for delivering items the same or the next day. The individual preferences of patients, such as delivery times and locations, should also be taken into account.
- Quality of products: The health and safety of patients heavily depend on the quality of medical supplies. The responsible parties, such as suppliers and manufacturers in the medical field, must uphold high safety and quality standards in their products to ensure that they do not inflict any harm. Thus, it is imperative for the supply chain to prioritize production best practices that comply with stringent regulatory requirements.
- Cost-effectiveness: The patient’s needs should not only be driven by quality products and timely delivery but also affordability. The healthcare industry is known to be cost-intensive, and it is essential to keep costs low while still maintaining access to vital supplies. The supply chain should work with different stakeholders to negotiate prices, reducing the burden on patients and their families. The financial benefit of cost optimization in the supply chain can provide many downstream benefits, including improved clinical outcomes.
- Customization and flexibility: The healthcare needs of each patient are distinct and shouldn’t be generalized. Because of this, the pharma chain needs to contain a level of flexibility that other supply chains do not. It is vital that manufacturers and suppliers work together to customize their products and services to meet the specific healthcare needs of patients.
What are the important components of patient centricity?
To achieve patient centricity, it is recommended that both healthcare providers (HCPs) and logistics professionals work together to focus on providing several key components at every stage of the pharma supply chain. Some of these components include:
- Patient-first policies and procedures: HCPs can implement patient-first policies and procedures, which involves designing care processes and protocols with the patient’s best interests in mind. Examples include shared decision-making, where patients are actively involved in their care decisions, and personalized treatment plans that consider the unique needs and preferences of each individual. By incorporating patient-first policies, HCPs can ensure that patients feel valued, respected, and empowered throughout their care journey.
- High accessibility: HCPs should ensure services are available and accessible to all patients, regardless of where they’re located, language barriers, or physical limitations. This can be achieved by provisioning telehealth services when applicable or offering extended hours of operation. Healthcare facilities should also be designed with physical accessibility in mind, providing ramps, elevators, and other accommodations for patients with disabilities.
- Regulatory compliance standards: Compliance with regulatory standards is a fundamental aspect of prioritizing patients’ needs. These standards guarantee that the confidentiality of patient information is upheld, and HCPs conduct themselves in accordance with optimal patient-care models. Adherence to regulations like HIPAA and GDPR demonstrates a firm dedication to safeguarding patient privacy and fostering a reliable relationship of trust.
- Collaboration at all levels: To ensure a patient-centric healthcare approach, effective collaboration among all stakeholders is essential. This involves physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrators, and logistics teams working together in different capacities to continuously improve how the pharma supply chain performs. By encouraging open communication and teamwork, HCPs can enhance their comprehension of their patients’ requirements. This collaborative approach leads to more streamlined care coordination and better patient outcomes.
Driving the pharma industry forward with the right mindset
Although healthcare and pharma supply chains are becoming more complex, organizations can still prioritize patient centricity by utilizing various available options.
Companies can showcase their dedication to safety, quality, and patient satisfaction by investing in suitable infrastructure, adhering to relevant regulations, implementing traceability measures, and developing contingency plans for possible disruptions. By doing this, companies make sure that their supply chains are efficient and always prioritize the interests of patients.
About the Author
David L. Buss is the CEO of DB Schenker North America.