Healthcare and the Promise of Digitization

Digitization of Healthcare

In less than two weeks, SCM World will convene its annual Live Americas forum in Miami. Sandwiched between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, there should be little distraction for the attendees at what promises to be a fantastic line-up of speakers and presenters.

The theme of the conference is digitization and the long sought after Holy Grail of supply chain: total visibility. Visibility across demand, supply and profit leads to smarter business decisions. This is the idea, and speakers ranging from Amazon to Ecolab will bring unique perspectives to this overarching theme.

As a healthcare guy, however, I’m really excited about another angle on visibility – visibility to outcomes. The future of healthcare is bright for those organizations that can gain insight and visibility into outcomes. And a number of the speakers at Live Americas will focus on just this. Ayasdi’s Chief Medical Officer as well as ROi, Mercy Health’s supply chain division and one of its partners, Siemens Healthcare, plan to address different elements of this question on visibility to outcomes.

Disruptive Technologies Gaining Momentum in Healthcare

For the past three years, we’ve been asking the SCM World community about disruptive and important technologies to their organizations’ supply chain strategies. The graph below is a year-over-year cut of the healthcare & pharma sector responses.

Graph showing the trends in disruptive and important technologies in healthcare and pharma, based on 264 (spread across 3 surveys) survey respondents.

Nearly every single disruptive technology has risen in importance year over year. While some such as Uberization and drones are still in infancy in terms of impact to healthcare & pharma supply chain strategies, there is fairly wide-scale agreement on the strategic impact of others like big data analytics and the internet of things.

Two technologies in particular jumped in significance between 2015 and 2016. Respondents citing advanced robotics and 3D printing increased by 12 percentage points in both cases. Supply chain executives are getting serious about the transformative potential both in the cost and in the outcomes of these technologies.

Big Data Analytics

The one digital technology trend that the healthcare & pharma sector is more bullish on than the rest of the survey population is big data analytics (83% vs 81% saying it’s disruptive and important). This isn’t surprising when you consider the vast reservoirs of data that exist on health services, products, payment, and patients in the healthcare value chain. Most of this data is siloed, inaccessible, inconsistent and therefore useless. The big data analytics engines aim to change this.

One really interesting solution provider is Nuna, the Bay Area healthcare analytics engine recently featured in The New York Times. Nuna built a cloud database of all Medicaid patients and their treatments in the United States. Harmonizing this was an exceptional effort – the ability to link treatment costs and outcomes is a real possibility now, which could have an enormous impact on population health efforts.

Advanced Robotics

The number of healthcare & pharma supply chain professionals seeing advanced robotics as disruptive and important is nearing 50%, practically doubling in two years. Advanced robotics can play an integral role across the entire end-to-end value chain, from manufacturing to distribution to point of use.

Robots are now being deployed in hospital settings to deliver food and laundry as well as medications to patient rooms. The end result of the use of such robots is to allow clinicians to focus more on patient care.

3D Printing

The two-year change in the percentage of supply chain professionals seeing 3D printing as disruptive and important is even more dramatic than for advanced robotics. It could also prove transformative. From clinical use cases of the 3D printing of a femur or mandible to help in reconstruction to the printing of surgical instruments on site at point of use, the applications are endless.

Let the Mapping Begin

These technology trends and others will be discussed at our Live Americas event in just under two weeks. My colleagues Kevin O’Marah and Pierfrancesco Maneti have been busy creating a digital roadmap to help organizations map their current footprint.

Healthcare & pharma supply chain professionals should do themselves a favor and look at the interesting methodology that Pier and Kevin have developed to fill the gaps in organizations’ digital roadmaps.


Author Barry Blake

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