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As healthcare organizations are being forced to cut costs and find ways to increase efficiency, the supply chain is one of the first areas managers will look at. It is the second largest expense for healthcare providers after labor, so for the areas subject to intense regulation and internal oversight, this expense is unavoidable. Be that as it may, when it comes to making necessary purchases, there are new ways to keep the supply chain both effective and cost effective.

By building strong, strategic relationships with key players and embracing new, available technologies, you can create leaner processes and pave the way for major cost savings in your healthcare supply chain management.

1. Automating Purchasing Processes 

Manual processes in ordering supplies are outdated and inefficient. Making employees enter data for requisitions, purchase orders, and invoices into the record keeping system is prone to errors and wastes employees' time. Suppliers and providers alike would benefit from using e-commerce services that will automate transactions across organizations and functions as well as keep data entry and inventory management accurate. Automation can also help with demand forecasting and comparative effectiveness research.

2. Developing Partner Relationships

Forming relationships with distributors is key for getting supplies to patients a lot faster. Suppliers, partners, and customers who form symbiotic relationships and maintain good rapport find that their suppliers will keep costs down and offer more flexible contracts. Further, as technology marches on, the accuracy and frequency of placing orders electronically will better enable these relationships and create more efficient healthcare supply chain management. 

3. Effectively Using Big Data

Data is going to play a large role in supply chain evolution and battling rising costs. Providers can capture and share the data used in the supply chain in other aspects of the practice. For instance, the data from medical devices and/or products used in a procedure can be easily and automatically populated in into a patient's electronic health records. By identifying the various costs for frequently purchased products, as well as what is being purchased off-contract, this data can be utilized for steep discounts in supplier or GPO contracts.

4. Using the Right Strategic Sourcing Firm 

The right sourcing strategy can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on supplies across multiple facilities. A strategic sourcing or procurement solution is the way to go with healthcare supply chain management if results or savings aren't what they should be. Professional procurement also offers more buying power to providers because they grant access to hundreds, if not thousands, of suppliers and distributors in the medical supply industry. The account managers at the firm are also likely to have more experience negotiating favorable deals on supply contracts, medical device leases, and service agreements than healthcare providers' in-house staff. By being connected to a variety of suppliers and distributors, a procurement expert can take the strain of managing the supply chain off of providers.

Digitizing healthcare supply chain management by embracing automation ensures greater accuracy and efficiency. A boon for all involved, it revolutionizes the way healthcare providers do business, saves on cost, and can eventually lead to more favorable pricing with suppliers. 

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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