Most would agree that being easy to do business with is a way to set your business apart and deepen customer relationships. It is certainly so for suppliers in the competitive healthcare industry. Leading suppliers are looking at the complete customer experience and acting on the opportunity to support healthcare providers’ needs by embracing a digital transformation strategy.
DIGITIZATION IS A CRITICAL FIRST STEP
Digital transformation enables providers to deliver care, improve processes, and reduce costs. In addition, a digital enterprise can be much nimbler to address changing market dynamics. But an organization must digitally transform its entire operation to reach this state. There are two strategies currently helping providers make this move that also greatly benefit suppliers: automating the procure-to-pay process and moving to a cloud-based ERP.
Automating procure-to-pay provides many benefits. It can reduce costs by eliminating manual processes, support a remote workforce, and create data points. Suppliers who seek to support providers’ shift to a digital patient experience must deliver the same approach to their relationship with their provider customers. Slow, error-prone manual processes are an obstacle to this approach. As an example, customers need to understand order fulfillment and supply delivery. The expectation is that acknowledgement will no longer occur in hours or days, but in minutes. Manual processes simply cannot meet this demand.
The pandemic changed work habits forever. To retain the best talent, remote workforce support has become a reality for suppliers and providers. Automation tools support this as they can be leveraged from anywhere and free up scarce staff to do things only humans can do. For example, accounts payable staff may no longer be in a location to receive and process paper-based invoicing. Suppliers establishing a digital customer experience must realize this and move to electronic invoicing and payments. This move also allows providers and suppliers to take advantage of early payment opportunities and maximize working capital.
Finally, a nimble enterprise that responds to rapid change must make data-driven decisions. Each automated supply chain transaction generates a data point that when aggregated, can support decisions across the entire supply chain.
New care models and new care locations are driving the second digital transformation strategy, moving to a cloud-based ERP. This technology infrastructure fosters collaboration between providers and suppliers. As information silos are dismantled and processes are extended closer to the point of care, outdated and erroneous information can generate negative impacts throughout the supply chain. These impacts are a leading cause of disruption in the acquisition and procurement of supplies, which strains relationships with providers and can also have an impact on patient care. Providers are leveraging these expanded technological capabilities to drive business process change and avoid these impacts.
As suppliers think about delivering a digital experience, they must understand their role in their customers’ digital transformation journey. They must lean in to support greater automation, but a digital experience requires automation and data. Suppliers must consider what data and information exists in their organization that can improve customers’ experience. Suppliers further down the journey of delivering a digital experience are providing catalog data with rich attributes like images and real-time contract information to help ensure their customers are getting the right product at the right price at the right time.
Catalog and contract data aligned between provider and supplier ERP systems coupled with automated procure-to-pay creates a foundation that gives suppliers greater visibility across the healthcare supply chain and into their customers. This results in more strategic and value-based financial decisions that also help improve a supplier’s operational performance. For example, it allows suppliers to reallocate product to areas with the highest demand.
That same foundation allows the relationship to further extend to clinical systems and the point of care. A digital experience from suppliers that reaches the patient at the point of care is the ideal state. It is here where the digital patient experience and digital supply chain meet.
[Originally published on 5/2/22 in Medical Product Outsourcing Magazine]
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