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Denise Odenkirk

Vice President, Supplier Sales
Monday, December 07, 2020

Pandemic Presses Supply Chain to New Levels of Automation

While hospitals and health systems, along with their suppliers, have long recognized the benefits of supply chain process automation—greater efficiency and accuracy, lower costs—the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how critical it is to procure products in a timely manner. Never before was the importance of automation more apparent than when we saw the pressure on supply chain professionals to quickly meet an unexpected surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other products needed for the care of patients and caregiver safety.

Both manufacturers and providers were forced to quickly retool healthcare supply chain teams to work from home. Those relying on cumbersome manual processes were at a significant disadvantage. They lacked visibility into supply procurement and the ability to place automated orders, manage shortages, backorders and stock-outs, and process payments.

If you are a supplier without automated processes, you have likely experienced the pressure and challenge from customers requesting rapid delivery for high volumes of supplies in a short space of time. Having customer service working from home manually processing purchase orders (PO), tracking delivery status and backorders in Excel spreadsheets, and making phone calls or sending emails to update customers has been overwhelming. Those suppliers without automated and electronic systems to manage customer orders had no choice but to resort to manual efforts, adding time, labor and complexity to an environment where speed and simplicity are desperately needed on both the buy and sell sides.

Your customers are relying on you to automate

Over the past two decades, healthcare supply chain trading partners have made a great deal of progress in automating processes, but COVID-19 has illustrated that large gaps in procure-to-pay automation remain. The pandemic has prompted healthcare leaders to closely scrutinize both their own supply chain processes and their suppliers to determine how they can prevent this level of supply disruption from happening again, whether it is another pandemic, natural disaster, or other unexpected event.

Never before has the importance of supplier relationships, the reliability of supply availability, and the ease at which healthcare organizations can get what they need when they need it been more apparent than in the past nine months. Suppliers are now feeling more pressure to automate, streamline and provide even better customer service to their customers. To achieve the level of automation their customers demand, suppliers must consolidate and automate the multiple, siloed and disconnected supply chain processes that currently take place throughout their organizations.

Even before the pandemic hit, health systems and hospitals, having made improvements to their internal supply chain processes, have expected their suppliers to follow suit. Some have even written these requirements into contracts, stating they will only conduct business with companies that support an electronic and automated procure-to-pay process. They want both the efficiency and accuracy that comes from automation and the data derived from conducting business with trading partners electronically to help inform decision-making.

A higher degree of automation and operational excellence is right for all trading partners in our healthcare community. It’s how we can all reduce expenses and drive down our cost to serve so we can spend more time focusing on the patient.

How can we help?

Because the healthcare supply chain is like no other, those companies supplying products to health systems, hospitals and other care sites need a supply chain solution provider with extensive experience in serving the needs of healthcare providers and suppliers alike. GHX has served healthcare supply chain stakeholders for more than two decades with its world-class cloud-based supply chain technology exchange platform, solutions, analytics and services. The company brings together more than 4,100 healthcare providers, 600 manufacturers and distributors in North America, and another 1,500 providers and 350 suppliers in Europe.

In serving more than 85 percent of U.S. healthcare providers, we can not only provide solutions to automate business processes with your existing customers but also help you grow your customer base. Furthermore, our expertise extends beyond medical/surgical (Med/Surg) products and into suppliers of diagnostic and monitoring systems, pharmaceutical products, repackaging and environmental solutions, implantable devices, diagnostic reagents and consumables for the laboratory department, anesthesia equipment and supplies, cardiology supplies, surgical products, technology providers—the list goes on.

The pandemic erupted and it became increasingly clear to all providers and suppliers that automation is no longer a nice to have. It is a must-have. If you’re not yet connected to your customers electronically so they can do business with you easily, seamlessly and with greater automation—we need to talk.

Learn more about e-commerce solutions with GHX