By Natalie Godwin
I have heard the word “unprecedented” so many times in 2020 that it has lost its significance; many of us have become desensitized to the extraordinary changes in the world this year. However, I am challenged to find a better word to describe the current healthcare crisis and ensuing turmoil and uncertainty about the future. As our new normal continually evolves, we have seen unprecedented changes within our healthcare environment, including:
- delayed or canceled procedures;
- empty emergency departments; and
- disjointed or underprepared supply chains.
Meaningful analytics and actionable insights are key to understanding the cause of these issues and making profound changes and vital decisions for the new normal today and well into the future.
Like many of my colleagues, I have had the opportunity to spend my career in many facets of healthcare including payers, providers, med-surg manufacturers, distribution, group purchasing (GPOs), and most recently, at a healthcare analytics leader. Seeing healthcare through so many different lenses has allowed me a more holistic viewpoint, and a greater understanding of the importance of data and deep analytical insights.
I have learned numerous healthcare operational lessons alongside many of you during the coronavirus pandemic. All are rooted in the need for good data and actionable insights, which are critical to support informed, strategic decision-making.
The following are three lessons learned during the pandemic:
- In the future, supply chain continuity risk can be mitigated by moving away from sole-source agreements. To be more prepared for the disruption of imported goods, logistical delays and other supply interruptions, it will be prudent to expand sourcing agreements to multi-source agreements. This goes against the supplier consolidation doctrines that many of us diligently worked to create and uphold pre-pandemic. However, these unprecedented times have made us realize the sole-sourced risks may outweigh the sole-sourced rewards. Moving to more multi-vendor agreements requires a much deeper need for consolidated dashboards and analytics to combine disparate reporting sources from various vendors.
- Global healthcare supply chains are learning that cost isn’t everything. We have seen hospitals scrambling for PPE, pharmaceuticals, and supplies throughout the pandemic. The lowest bidder has not always upheld the necessary fulfillment or quality standards needed in the crisis. This cost realization is similar to the industry’s revelation moving to value based patient care—thoughtful financial investments in preventive medicine and care management have been imperative in improving patient care and reducing total healthcare costs. Similarly, thoughtful investments in capital, meaningful, trusted relationships with vendors, timely, actionable data, and total cost of ownership considerations are key to supply chain continuity.
- We must enhance our commitment to “do more with less.” Many of us have been impacted by healthcare system layoffs, provider furloughs and consolidation of healthcare services. How do we become more efficient without impacting patient care? While there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, there are abundant opportunities uncovered through analytics:
- surgical suite turnover efficiency analysis;
- emergency department trending and patient flow protocols;
- procedure standardization driven by outcomes and supply cost; and
- GPO or contract utilization opportunities.
The list is endless. By automating analytics and focusing on key operational activities, systems can more efficiently and strategically deliver patient care, uncover functional, billable capacity, and improve patient outcomes. These actions may also reduce pressure to decrease healthcare headcount. Healthcare systems can “do more with less” by leveraging data and analytics to create a leaner, more nimble healthcare environment post-pandemic.
I am curious about what key takeaways each of you has seen during the pandemic and how we can leverage these lessons in the future.
Please take care of yourself and one another during these unprecedented times.
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