Industry Focus: Hospital Supply Management
The vast network of devices embedded with network connectivity that we call the Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding every day. The rise in use of global technology has led to many industries adopting digital strategies to enhance efficiency and access to their products and services—in the health sector the hospital supply management is deeply impacted by digital solutions.
The healthcare industry has witnessed massive—albeit in varying degrees in terms of region—transformations in how care in different stages is administered. To illustrate, a report by Aruba Networks reveals that almost two-thirds of healthcare organizations have introduced IoT devices into their facilities, which is expected to reach 87 percent by the 2019. Concurrent with the growth of digital solutions in the healthcare world has been the rise of jobs in the digital healthcare industry. For new graduates or professional with expertise in technology-related subfields and a desire to land a position with digital healthcare companies, the time is apt. In this article, such individuals can delve deeper into one particular healthcare sector changed by the digital revolution—supply management; moreover, they can also find information on the sort of jobs available in this sector and how to pursue them.
How Has Digitization Reinvented Supply Management?
Supply chain management in healthcare is often a complex, fragmented procedure. For a hospital, this involves obtaining resources, managing supplies, and delivering those goods and services to providers and patients. This chain starts at the medical product manufacturers and goes through distributors or group purchasing organizations before reaching the hospital. Hospitals stock all these goods into their inventory and restock when the products start to deplete.
Traditionally, supply chain management has tended to be costly and drawn out, mostly because of the conflict of interest between providers who wish to provide the products they’re the most trained in and hospital administrative purchasers who wish to minimize cost while maintaining quality. According to Steve Kiewiet of BJC Healthcare, supply chain management ends up being costly due to a lack of end-to-end visibility. He argues that supplies and supply data have historically been “siloed and firewalled”, leaving information important for efficient business operations disintegrated.
Digital solutions can help hospitals overcome the problem by streamlining the entire supply chain process, helping reduce storage, overfill rates, medical supply expenses, and rush order rates. By improving visibility in all levels of the supply chain, the problem of under-supplying and creating a barrier to full access of potentially life-saving medical materials or overcompensating and creating high costs and waste can both be overcome. A few examples of companies that have done so are:
- Aethon. Provides supply chain logistics, chain of command, and workflow solutions so that movement of equipment and supplies throughout the hospital is automated. Aethon’s solutions are mainly carried out by its TUG robots that safely and effectively delivers supplies to different rooms and departments. MedEx, their software system, also tracks chain-of-custody control of medication delivery.
- Lab Sensor Solutions. Offers “sensors as a service” system for hospital and labs. Their T-Tracks solution provides a cost-effective real-time way of monitoring the temperature of healthcare materials for both on-site and in-transit environment applications. Using Bluetooth Low Energy sensors and a cloud computing platform, all stakeholders are provided with relevant information from pickup and delivery confirmations to preemptive excursion alerts.
- McKesson Supply Chain Management. Offers end-to-end and enterprise-wide services that analyze the efficiency of hospital processes, and tightens inventory management. McKesson’s solutions integrate purchase order confirmation management and workflow by consolidating purchasing applications.
- Mercy by ROi. Offers customized end-to-end supply chain solutions. ROi partners with fellow providers to design a supply chain strategy that aligns with an organization’s strategic goals. There are various solutions available that emphasize different goals, from minimizing costs to removing intermediaries to aligning all stakeholders in collaborative decision making.
- Owens & Minor. Helps optimize inventory by aligning levels with demand and utilization. They evaluate each hospital’s unique needs and apply their own QSight suite of web-based inventory management tools that enable comprehensive inventory control for hospitals. Using just a connected device and a barcode scanner, users can populate into an electronic health record and harness a database of over 400,000 SKUs containing data attributes from the manufacturer. The solutions can track inventory in real time and use visual triggers to deliver supplies.
- Alloga UK. Provides various solutions, including an integrated warehousing order-processing and distribution service that can be scaled and customized to the clients’ needs. Their Partner Portal allows clients access to key management information on a near-real-time basis. Alloga also takes responsibility for managing orders, customer service, and cash and debt collection in a full supply chain solution.
- Camelot IT Lab. Leads by a Demand-Driven Supply Chain Management approach. Camelot’s solutions enable realistic and holistic planning and Calculation of future utilized capacity of quality control resources. Camelot also provides thorough consultation in every step of the supply chain.
What Can Job-Seekers Expect?
Digital health companies such as those listed above are receiving lots of investor funds, and many are expanding to cover more areas. Because of this, job-seekers can now find a whole gamut of new jobs in digital healthcare. In 2015, ICT Canada predicted that 32,000 new jobs in digital health would be created by 2020. Such forecasts appear to be proving true: Salus Digital jobs, the largest search engine in Europe for healthcare innovation jobs, recently reported that jobs advertised across the fields of Digital Health, Medtech, and Pharma increased by a whopping 380% in the first quartile of 2017. Over the next five years, this is expected to grow even further. Since different companies offer different solutions and technologies, the roles of employees within them too may differ. To gain an idea of the kinds of jobs that may be available at a supply management company, take a look at some of the roles below:
- Software Architecture. Making high-level design choices; dictating technical standards; providing architectural blueprints and assuring quality, troubleshooting code problems, etc.
- Cloud Solutions Development. Designing cloud solutions based on SAP portfolio; developing prototypes; working with technologies such as Machine Learning, Blockchain, etc.
- SAP APO Consultant. Analyzing, evaluating, and optimizing business processes; customizing and developing SAP system; acquiring clients, etc.
- Supply Chain Strategy Project Manager. Facilitating strategic decisions to optimize implementation projects, anticipating project risks and develops mitigation strategies, resolving conflicts across project team members and customers without functional intervention, etc.
- Supply Chain Analyst. Developing and implementing stocking optimization models to minimize costs and inventory while delivering on service requirements; executing a collaborative process with internal and external stakeholders, etc.
- Hospital Pharmacy Technician. Processing pharmaceutical orders into unit dose sizes; coordinating receipts; ensuring availability of drugs; etc.
- Clinical Data Analyst. Obtaining and analyzing raw data from multiple sources; keeping various database system maintenance and mappings up to date; handling the reconciliation and analysis of internal and external data related issues, etc.
- Information Security Analyst. Leading the development and implementation of IT or security-related frameworks and standards; monitoring emerging regulatory changes that may impact IT; executing IT risk assessments against internal policies and industry frameworks; etc.
- Network Security Engineer/Analyst. Establishing overall system security by developing frameworks for controls; developing security technology configuration and reporting systems; consulting and working with security vendors on their tools features and functionality, etc.
Note that these are only some of the many types of jobs typically available at a digital health company. If you’re interested in working in the field, looking up open job positions at your preferred companies or signing up for vacancy alerts can be of great benefit. Most firms list a detailed job description alongside the post, so you know what to expect before you apply.
How Can Graduates Obtain Such Jobs?
Digital health companies deal with the sensitive issue of healthcare provision in the context of vulnerable technological systems. As such, they look for the most qualified individuals to ensure that demand is met. The job description will usually contain specifications of candidate requirements. If not, you can contact the relevant office to enquire. However, at least a bachelor’s degree and often higher degrees are necessary to work in a digital healthcare setting. Moreover, many positions might require previous experience in similar roles. The list below provides some university programs that may be of use in acquiring such jobs:
- Digital Innovation—University of London, London School of Economics, Southampton University, University of Warwick, etc.
- Computer Science/Information Technology— University of Cambridge, University of Warwick, King’s College London, etc.
- Networks and Computer Systems Security— University of Greenwich, University of South Wales, University of Wolverhampton, etc.
- Cyber Security— Lancaster University, Royal Holloway, University of York, etc.
- Software Engineering— University of Glasgow, Staffordshire University, York St John University, etc.
- UX Design— University of York, University of Dundee, University of Portsmouth, etc.
- Data Journalism/Science— Cardiff University, Birmingham City University, Birbeck University of London, University of Derby, etc.
- Digital Health. University of Strathclyde Glasgow, University of Cumbria, Glasgow Caledonian University, etc.
A survey by Cardinal Health and SERMO found in early 2017 that only around 17% of hospitals used automated inventory management solutions, while 78% still operated on manual processes. Hospital supply management is a corner of digital health that is yet to be embraced widely by hospitals and clinics worldwide. However, the demand for such automation is clearly present—traditional means of carrying out hospital supply management is not only costly and ineffective, it wastes valuable staff time when it could be used in other areas, such as driving patient engagement or enhancing patient experience.
In the coming years, startups and life sciences/health technology companies are bound to rise with the demand, and as more hospitals seek more efficient options. For graduates and those who want a job in the sector, this presents an immense opportunity. Acquiring germane degrees, skills, and experience will definitely help individuals find suitable roles.