Despite all the recent hype surrounding healthcare policy, the fact remains that technology — not politics — will likely be the rocket fuel that propels the healthcare industry forward. And nowhere is the disruption of emerging tech more obvious than in the procurement sector.
Emerging tech trends — especially big data, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing — will transform healthcare procurement operations, streamlining each department in ways we can only begin to imagine today.
In a recent interview, Ryan Flynn, principal at Deloitte, spoke about the company’s annual Global CPO Survey and noted that tech trends dominated CPO concerns. “More CPOs are looking at making high levels of investment in newer technologies like self-service portals, cloud computing, and mobile technologies,” Flynn said, adding that CPO investments in each of those areas increased by 27, 19, and 19 percent, respectively over last year.
“Given the increasing pressure to generate savings and “do more with less,” it will be crucial to develop strategies for using technology,” Flynn said.
Enhanced methods of data analysis may be the biggest game changer for most CPOs. The Deloitte survey noted that spend (data) analysis solutions will be the “main focus for technology investments, with 38% of executives saying this area is most likely to receive investment over the next 12 months.”
Data analysis will improve pricing, locate problems in the inventory chain, and empower managers to track and predict shifting trends, resulting in optimized healthcare supply chain planning opportunities. Big data is already yielding amazing results in general optimization. The research report, Big Data Analytics in Supply Chain: Hype or Here to Stay? Accenture Global Operations Megatrends Study states “Big data is having an impact on organizations’ reaction time to supply chain issues (41%), increased supply chain efficiency of 10% or greater (36%), and greater integration across the supply chain (36%).”
Cloud computing represents yet another powerful shift in technology, allowing vital data (especially documents), to be shared across organizations instantly while allowing edits and other changes to be realized by all users in real-time. Tons of costly paperwork can be replaced with shared PDF and Word documents.
By deploying cloud-based, paperless solutions shared cloud folders, old document scans, and use of PDF forms, healthcare procurement departments can cut thousands of dollars in paper and other office supplies. Documents that used to take up acres of warehouse space can be reduced to a single, secure server. Speaking of security, cloud-based documents have the added bonus of security add-ons, which can limit viewing or printing of documents to specific users, creating a “digital paper trail” in the case of future security issues.
Smart devices that integrate data with larger cloud computers and servers will transform procurement efficiency from warehouse to end-user. Known popularly as the Internet of Things (IoT), these networks of sensors, tablets, wearable devices, and smart phones leverage data and cloud computing, allow healthcare procurement workers to access real-time data, track inventories, and optimize receiving and shipping. Managers can integrate IoT devices with pre-existing spend analysis software to target areas of waste or provide intelligent solutions to identify and eliminate supply chain weaknesses.
In addition, IoT devices allow managers to track and monitor every purchase in real time using device apps. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and wearable devices allow workers to locate, scan, and collate inventory instantly.
Although the healthcare procurement industry will likely see an upward curve in tech investment, experts like Flynn say the road to digitization may be waylaid by cost concerns. “Those are huge increases, and it’s great to see procurement tapping the power of these technologies. With the financial pressures that are also being reported, one has to wonder if this level of investment will continue.” He noted, “60% of CPOs don’t have a clear digital strategy.”
Is your healthcare supply chain ready for the changes to come?