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2021

THE IMPORTANCE OF HOSPITAL LOGISTICS IN SAVING LIVES

By Daniel Abrego

Healthcare costs are rising while the sector remains underfunded especially in countries in Latin America. The burden on patients to pay high out-of-pocket costs is stressful and at the same time increased spending on healthcare is not addressing the issues of inefficiency and unequal distribution. Hospital Logistics offers solutions and benefits at the macro level which trickle down to the patient. With policymakers and institutions embracing this logistics system, the pressure for constant funding is eased and overall care and patient satisfaction is greatly increased.

What is Hospital Logistics?

Hospital Logistics ties together all steps of the supply chain from supplier drug procurement to patient drug administration; from vetting of suppliers to following up on discharged patients as they adhere to prescriptions and medicine/counselling. All steps are covered through specialist software including prescriptions, diagnoses, patient histories, supplier information, expiration dates, distribution channels and more. Information is tracked and traceable through QR coding and individual identification cards for patients.

How does it work?

First let’s take a broad look at the supply chain. It starts with manufacturers or importers who handle manufacturing, packaging, labelling and dispatch. From here, a logistics centre takes care of storage. Next, a logistics operator handles distribution to the door of state/private pharmacies and healthcare facilities. And finally, hospital administration handles prescriptions, dispensing and follow ups.

Through Hospital Logistics, all these steps are covered electronically under one unified portal. At any point of the supply chain, you can step in and engage in tracking and traceability and have information at your fingertips. An important component is the QR code which has numerous practical uses. It provides patient identification, drug safety and anti-counterfeiting measures through authentication, direct alerts to mobile devices for a patient’s dosage timing or procedures, monitoring of hospital assets and medical equipment for safety and maintenance and health tracking after leaving the premises. (QR codes are adaptable and made to meet new needs. For example, during COVID-19, QR software offers contactless health visitor forms, health declarations and contact tracing.)

A Hospital Logistics software coordinates all these factors between all levels of the supply chain. Every step is handled and carried out electronically, minimizing errors, risks and thefts, and saving on time.

What are the benefits?

At a macro level, Hospital Logistics software technology ensures the correct supply of drugs at state and private levels. Through better inventory management, supplier verification and vetting, it is also easier to identify problems and hone in on priority issues. This time and energy saving process reduces pressures on bureaucracy and decision makers. There is improved availability, access and delivery coverage. Overall, making changes to healthcare at the macro level becomes more feasible and sustainable.

With this software and better inventory management, there is less wastage, expiration of medicines and storage problems. Storage of consumables is a big cost and when healthcare facilities are constrained, medicines are stored in bathrooms or dusty warehouses. It is unfortunate but abandoned medicines and their disposal is a big economic cost that should be unnecessary in the first place.

There are also savings on administration and distribution as the software allows for cooperation among supply networks, not just linear supply chains. From packaging to trucking, or sharing manufacturers through a supply chain cluster, the more collaboration there is, the more fast, safe and cost effective the process becomes. Supply networks these days are complicated with lots of data coming through control towers to gather and refine. The right software will enable you to make the right decisions and leverage on information.

Patients benefit greatly from the attention provided by the online portal. There is uninterrupted exchange of information between them and their healthcare administrator and other parties such as their pharmacy. They are all on the same page in any circumstance and at any moment in time. Patients are tracked so diligently that there are no errors in dispensing medicine and even the provenance and batch of the medicine they were given is recorded. Prescription adherence is higher because of virtual follow ups and monitoring. When adherence improves, so does the health of the patient.

As you can see, supply chain optimization and accurate inventory management are real fixes that do not require compromising on financial stability.

This online platform addresses high cost of medicines, improving efficiency of processes and strengthening institutions while improving the overall quality of healthcare. Patients can use money for other household expenses other than medicines. This is a considerable concern especially in Latin American countries where promised universal health coverage is not always reality and where most governments spend lower than the percentage of GDP earmarked for health. With healthcare costs rising, larger aging populations and the rise of chronic diseases requiring lifelong attention, these efficiencies need to be urgently addressed.

To be part of the Hospital Logistics platform, please contact tulogistica@ilc.com.pa