Winds of change: As health systems expand, so must transportation operations

Here is the first of four installments stemming from the round table discussion with supply chain leaders that MedSpeed recently hosted.

One of the hottest topics the group discussed is how rapidly U.S. health systems are changing. Care is moving beyond the four walls of the hospital and health systems are growing quickly through acquisitions and strategic partnerships.

Hospitals and health systems will look very different tomorrow than they look today. Given that the reach of systems is much further than it was, managing the supply chain amidst constant growth creates a big obstacle.

What our supply chain leaders had to say, in their own words:

“I see a complexity that wasn’t there even a year or two ago. What used to be a very simple courier system that ran mail and specimens between three hospitals in a pretty tight geographical area is getting increasingly wide and increasingly complex; and along with that complexity are the necessary sophisticated tools to run it, such as software and GPS systems.”

“In terms of the supply chain, we are not geared up to deal with the environment (of multiple acquisitions) that we are thrust into now. We’re really scrambling to figure out who our partners are and we’re looking at a lot of integration of partnerships with other health providers, adding to the complexity.”

“Transportation is a big deal for us. We probably have 350-400 locations; are buying new doctor’s offices all the time…it’s a big part of our organization.”

“As we spread out (geographically), what used to be in this nice, huge building is spread out all over the community. The need to connect those pieces—patients, employees, supplies and beyond—is becoming more and more critical. Clearly, we don’t understand it, but we need to. That whole concept of how transportation complements, supports or interacts with the whole clinical environment is hard for us to understand.”

Sheer geography has made logistics and transportation far more challenging than they were, even a couple of years ago. With the integration of different hospitals and offices into a system, supply chain leaders find it increasingly difficult to determine, let alone address, transportation needs.

Next week, in the second installment, we’ll look at “The big unknown about healthcare transportation: hidden costs.”

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