HealthPRO Canada News

October 10, 2022

Disruption and Change in Healthcare Supply Chains: Insights on the Path Forward

On September 15th, Kendra Frey, HealthPRO’s Vice President of Materials Management, was invited to participate in a panel as part of Supply Chain Canada’s Leadership Series: Disruption and Change in Healthcare Supply Chains and the Path Forward.

Featuring an impressive lineup of panelists, this important discussion focused on Canada’s healthcare experience with supply disruptions during the pandemic and how this can be turned into an opportunity for positive change and advancement in the system.

The consensus was that the industry should not lose momentum of change and transformation that the pandemic has generated in healthcare. To improve supply chain quality in the healthcare system, they proposed an increased focus on learning, strategy, demand planning, visibility, and knowledge on vulnerabilities in supply chains. 

They also expressed interest in long term management of risk including mitigation and balance that will contribute to successful service continuity. The panel agreed that this is a multi-year planning endeavour that requires proactive collaboration.  However, even with strong demand planning, there are other important operational stresses that pose a huge problem for hospital operations.  Currently, hospitals are at 120% capacity from the decreases in Health Human Resources which will largely impact the overall operational capacity to effectively deal with supply shortages. 

Regarding supply chain visibility, Mark Walton, SVP, Covid Response at Ontario Health commented that “the system doesn’t necessarily encourage collaboration”. This is because of the competitive, profit driven landscape of the supply industry. With open communications across all stakeholders, including government and private sectors, supply chain systems can be improved.  Kendra Frey commented on the potential for an improved visibility in the Canadian healthcare system:

“Building a network of trust is a huge part of the equation. Data is key and only so great if we can collectively share the data and work as a country. Sharing information across networks and trusting our partners, that gives us what we need to be able to plan and move forward and have those discussions as a system. We are at the beginning stages of realizing that this needs to happen.”

The webinar also approached the topic of differences between the Ontario and British Columbia supply chain systems.  British Columbia has taken on a centralized system for healthcare that incorporates consistent messaging across all healthcare stakeholders, whereas Ontario has a more fragmented system. Scott Macnair, EVP, Business Operations at the Provincial Health Services Authority in BC describes their response to clinical disruptions.

“During the pandemic in BC, Supply Chain disruptions increased to 250 from 100 disruptions a month. With the efficiency of consistent messaging, the clinical disruptions team was ramped up to focus on long term strategies in relationships with vendors.  In the short term, they focused on acquiring the products they needed, and not to hold up procedures. The messaging surrounding this was unified and the industry had visibility, along with clinical guidance”.

Another key area discussed during the webinar was the possibility of improving supplier value, capabilities and operations. The question is: Can suppliers bring the industry better solutions for their supply chains and take on new innovations for greater efficiencies, including manufacturing within Canada? For now, there are other major short-term concerns that we are still dealing with, especially with key pressure points in the industry for patients such as diagnostic imaging, contrast media, surgeries, and latent illnesses that have not been diagnosed.  Mark Walton comments on what is necessary for an improved Canadian system:

“Until we have that National conversation where we look at it in it’s aggregate, we often end up cannibalizing each other in our own supply chains and really end up working at cross purposes”

So, how do we keep this discussion relevant and on the radar in the political sphere? The webinar came to a close with a discussion on looking at a national system that embraces investing in the future and balancing risk for a healthcare system that will ultimately be more efficient. The perspective that healthcare is just another political cost needs to be eradicated. This investment will lead to a sector ready to perform during the next crisis.