Healthcare supply chains ‘more resilient during pandemic’

12 August 2020

Health sector supply chains have been one of the most resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to research.

The survey, conducted by consultancy Kearney, found health sector respondents scored themselves 6.1 out of 10 on the resiliency of their supply chains, compared to the wider industry average of 5.4.

Kearney, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, interviewed more than 400 senior operations and supply chain executives about the resilience of supply chains throughout the pandemic.

The survey found that nearly two thirds (63%) of UK-based health sector respondents were using new generation data and technology such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, 3D imaging and additive manufacturing, to appropriately adapt to potential supply and demand disruptions. 

Health firms were also unsurprisingly the least likely to close their premises in the event of a prolonged crisis, with only 9% of firms globally doing so.

Half of health sector respondents said they intended to change suppliers in a prolonged crisis, while 35% said they would fundamentally change their supplier management to better prepare for supply chain disruption in the future. 

A quarter or respondents said they were struggling with supply chain processes and networks during the current crisis.

The research also highlighted some changing priorities for healthcare operators.

Nearly half (45%) said risk assessment about further disruption from the pandemic was important. Guarantees on heightened sanitisation measures across the supply chain was cited as important by over two fifths (41%) of respondents, and as well as prioritising critical products, goods or materials (36%). 

Almost a third (32%) of survey respondents said they would change their demand planning to better prepare for future supply chain disruption. However, just under a third (29%) thought their demand planning was already effective at dealing with the pandemic challenges.

The research also found that the UK supply chain as a whole does not feel it has adapted well to the pandemic’s impact, with 63% of firms scoring themselves only 5 out of 10.  

Nigel Pekenc, principal at Kearney, said that the health sector should accelerate investment in an expansive digital healthy ecosystem. 

“After the dust settles, the healthcare system, and therefore the playing field for the healthcare industry, will have forever changed,” he said. 

“And while it is crucial to be laser-focused on today’s priorities such as ensuring continuity of supply, healthcare leaders should not ignore the opportunity Covid-19 has created to reimagine their role in improving patient outcomes powered by digital.” 

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