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The COVID-19 pandemic has and is still underlining all the weak points of the healthcare supply chains. Among the strategies the industry can embrace to mitigate such supply chain disruptions, using technology plays a big role, but the initiative must be a public one, since rules and regulations should be put in place to help the process.
The World Health Organization has warned since March 2020 that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse – was putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
To render the health care supply chain stronger and more stable for the future, it’s highly important to pinpoint the reasons for major supply chain interruptions that happened during the pandemic.
Then, health care organizations and pharmaceutical companies have to establish the strategies that can help them mitigate supply chain disruptions during major emergencies without attached overwhelming costs. For instance, having huge amounts of safety stocks for a wide variety of health care items would ensure resiliency, but these would have very high costs attached, thus not being practical. More importantly, solutions cannot come only from the private sector. Emergency preparedness is a public health imperative, and federal, state and local governments need to assess what policy prescriptions they should enact, especially since rules and regulations to be applied in such a situation must be state-issued.
After the coronavirus vaccines helped nations to rise from what was, hopefully, the peak of this pandemic, the global economy is slowly starting to emerge from it. But COVID-19 is leaving behind one very destructive economic issue in its wake: disruption to global supply chains.
The rapid spread of the virus in 2020 determined shutdowns of industries around the globe and, while most of the world was in lockdown, lower consumer demand led to reduced industrial activity. Therefore, there were fewer goods to be transported from place to place, and transportation itself was quite limited in certain areas.
As lockdowns have lifted, demand has hit the ceiling. And supply chains that were diminished during the pandemic are still struggling to adapt and face numerous challenges. The problem is far from being solved, and the health care supply chain issues are only part of it.
Experts like Tim Uy of Moody’s Analytics say that supply chain problems “will get worse before they get better.”
“As the global economic recovery continues to gather steam, what is increasingly apparent is how it will be stymied by supply-chain disruptions that are now showing up at every corner,” Uy said in a report last October.
Supply chain bottlenecks — congestion and blockages in the production system — have affected a variety of sectors, services and goods ranging from shortages of electronics and autos (with problems exacerbated by the well-known semiconductor chip shortage) to difficulties in the supplies of meat, medicines, medical devices and supplies for hospitals.
The healthcare trends poised to evolve in 2022 combine the power of technology with the power of human intuition, this being probably the best way to also tackle supply chain issues. Robots help surgeons become more effective, but human expertise and skill are still needed to safely and effectively perform procedures. Our deeper understanding of human health needs and mental health combine with new drug and treatment options to help people improve their lives.
We face many challenges today. COVID-19 remains a threat the healthcare community has to deal with every single day. Natural disasters displace and harm people all over the world. Wealth inequality is still present and has been deepened by the pandemic, leaving people in poverty all over the world. On the other hand, there is incredible progress in the field of medicine, fueled by innovation and hard work.
Over the past decade – and especially since COVID – we have seen a proliferation of consumer health devices, which prompted a demand for more appropriate regulations. From Fitbits to Happify, products that promote physical and mental health have flourished. There is so much that is positive about them. First and foremost, they have made access to better health management as easy as downloading an affordable or even free app.
Simultaneously, they have been essential for facilitating the consumerization of healthcare. On the other hand, using them needs to be properly regulated, all over the world, and efforts have been made to put these regulations in agreement. Maybe, having the same sets of rules everywhere would make the supply easier, ensuring patients would receive the needed care products more rapidly and in a proper manner.