Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Public Health Supply Chains

Medical and humanitarian organizations face unique challenges to inventory management and demand forecasting when designing a supply chain strategy. They must balance their aim of delivering quality services to patients, which requires an ample and diverse supply of medications and other supplies, while minimizing the cost associated storing and shipping these items.  U.S. hospitals have a choice of numerous inventory control systems, such as those offered by the pharmaceutical distributor and health IT solutions firm, McKesson[1] to optimize this area of operations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has developed an initiative to empower international public health organizations and local health service delivery groups to improve logistics and supply chain practices. The “USAID | DELIVER PROJECT assists the development of health supply chains for a broad array of essential health commodities: family planning, malaria, avian influenza, HIV and AIDS-related medicines and supplies, laboratory reagents and supplies, and essential medicines.”[2]

Recently, the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT has released a publication that addresses vendor managed inventory (VMI): “Selecting and Implementing Vendor Managed Inventory Systems for Public Health Supply Chains: A Guide for Public Sector Managers[3] This specialized reference for managers of public health/humanitarian organizations and supply chains provides an overview and case studies related to the application of private sector VMI systems to suppliers in developing world.

From propriety state-of-the-art automation and inventory control systems, to humanitarian organizations, health service supply chain management’s aim is to reduce waste and improve patient service. By nature, U.S. medical supply chain systems involve surplus and obsolete inventory. Hospitals and clinics adhere to ever-restrictive policies on medication and supply expiration dates and adopt ever improving technologies and medical devices. One organization that capitalizes on this excess is the Pittsburgh-based NGO, Global Links. Global Links is a medical relief and development organization dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship and improving health in resource-poor communities, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean.[4] They redistribute still useful medical inventory from U.S. hospitals to organizations in partner countries.

[1] "Hospital Supply Chain Solutions Drive Strategic Decision-Making." Supply Chain Solutions. McKesson, n.d. Web. <http://www.mckesson.com/en_us/McKesson.com/For%2BHealthcare%2BProviders/Hospitals/Supply%2BChain%2BSolutions/Supply%2BChain%2BSolutions.html>.
[2] "USAID | DELIVER PROJECT - What We Do." USAID | DELIVER PROJECT - What We Do. USAID, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012. <http://deliver.jsi.com/dhome/topics>.
[3] "Selecting and Implementing Vendor Managed Inventory Systems for Public Health Supply Chains: A Guide for Public Sector Managers." USAID | DELIVER PROJECT. USAID, n.d. Web. <http://deliver.jsi.com/dlvr_content/resources/allpubs/guidelines/SeleImplVMI.pdf>.
[4] "Global Links | Sharing Surplus, Saving Lives." Global Links | Sharing Surplus, Saving Lives. Global Links, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012. <http://www.globallinks.org/>.

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