Transforming data into insights that drive better outcomes

Do you know what happens when supply chain analytics are enabled by the right data collection technology? According to Jean-Claude Saghbini, CTO of Cardinal HealthTM Inventory Management Solutions, you’ve got a game changer. 

Saghbini says supply chain analytics have the power to help hospital leaders better predict, trend and analyze product utilization information at every touchpoint throughout the enterprise. He also believes that analytics have the potential to transform the entire healthcare supply chain, from the manufacturer all the way to the patient. Here, Saghbini talks with us about how end-to-end supply chain analytics can transform data into actionable insights that can lower costs, improve efficiency and lead to better patient outcomes.

Q: First, can you talk with us about the connection between supply chain analytics and quality care…how can supply chain data be used to enhance patient outcomes? 

A: Having robust information about all of the products in your supply chain enables you to very closely manage – and therefore avoid – discrete events that impact patient safety, like expired products, stock-outs or the presence of recalled products.

But the impact goes beyond that. It’s well known that variability is the enemy of quality. Chances are that across every IDN, different hospitals, departments and clinicians are using different products for very similar procedures. A powerful analytics platform harnesses product usage data across all hospitals and departments, so you can start looking at product use, choice and availability holistically across the IDN. That kind of visibility allows you to identify, share and adopt best practices for product usage, so you can drive down costs while improving outcomes. 

Lastly, having the right supply chain technologies in place can free up clinician time to focus on patient care. When products are immediately available when and where they’re needed, clinicians can spend far less time preparing for procedures or leaving the bedside to search for products. That means more time spent caring for the patient – supporting initiatives around quality of care.

Q: How does the data you get from supply chain analytics differ from the kind of data found in an EMR, materials management or other clinical IT system?  

A: The first key is to understand that supply chain analytics extend beyond the walls of the hospital. They encompass end-to-end product data from the manufacturer all the way to the patient. Second, supply chain analytics based on accurate technology – RFID for example – can combine purchasing, inventory and patient usage data – across the enterprise – in one place. That end-to-end visibility provides actionable insights that can allow hospital leaders to continually optimize the entire supply chain.

Q: When it comes to selecting a supply chain technology, what elements should a hospital or IDN look for when evaluating options? 

A: As hospitals continue to consolidate, it grows more important that a supply chain technology can scale to work at the enterprise level – covering multiple departments and hospitals across an IDN. Second, it needs to be able to cover all of the products that flow through the IDN supply chain – while also having the flexibility to treat those products differently. For example, one would use advanced RFID technology to track expensive implantables, while inexpensive consumables would require different tracking mechanisms. But all the data needs to flow through the same platform, to provide a truly holistic, enterprise-wide view of all supply chain data. It’s also very important for an IDN’s analytics platform to have the flexibility to treat each specialty area differently. For example, the dashboard and usage reports needed for a cardiology unit aren’t the same as those needed for an orthopedics department. 

Q: Can you talk about how supply chain analytics impact consigned products, if at all?   

A: Many people mistakenly believe that consigned products are ‘free.’ They’re not. Even though a hospital isn’t carrying the cost of a consigned product on its books, that hospital is likely still responsible for knowing where that product is, at any point in time, and at any location, until it’s used in a patient. And you need technology for that. But if you take it up one level, inefficiencies caused by ineffective inventory management – consigned or not – are always present. And they don’t just impact the manufacturer. The cost of that waste ends up getting factored into the cost of products, which ends up driving up costs for all of us. Data analytics can provide all players in the supply chain with the actionable insights they need to have the kind of partner-to-partner discussions that can drive all possible inefficiencies out of the system. And that benefits us all.

Q: As the healthcare industry continues to shift to value-based care, how can supply chain analytics help hospital leaders address Triple Aim goals? 

A: When we think about Triple Aim initiatives, we think about delivering better care to patients, improving the overall health of populations and reducing healthcare costs. Supply chain analytics, enabled by a robust and accurate technology such as RFID, can address each one of those goals. This kind of technology can help hospitals right-size their inventories, improve charge capture, remove waste from the system and ensure the cost to provide care is the lowest it can be. It can impact quality of care by freeing up clinician time to focus on patient care, by helping to ensure that the right products are there when they’re needed, and by helping to ensure the wrong products – like those that are expired or recalled – never reach the patient. And once an entire IDN utilizes supply chain analytics, the data can be analyzed to identify product usage patterns, uncover and share best supply chain practices and reduce product usage variability, which almost always leads to better care quality.    

Editor’s note: A similar version of this piece will be sponsored in Healthcare Informatics.

For more information on supply chain innovation and automated technology, check out our Medical Supply Chain Solution Center.


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