Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Healthcare IT in times of the ACA

With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act taking shape, healthcare reform will not only impact access and cost, it will also impact healthcare supply chains tremendously. In this game of balancing higher quality care and increasing cost-effectiveness of the care received, the broader goal of more cost-effective, higher-quality health delivery will require significant changes in supply chain process and methodology. 

Changes like revenue constraints, increased patient throughput, and pressures for stronger collaboration with physicians and clinicians is bound to increase pressure on supply costs and a move to reduce them. 

The healthcare industry should expect a data explosion as the number of people using insurance will increase many fold and there will be more information to process and use. Therefore, the industry is increasingly investing and adopting cloud computing and other data integration decision support systems to reduce the impact on the healthcare supply chain. HIT is being regularly used to manage these segments:
  1. Transportation and Logistics – Increased outsourcing to reduce operation costs and tackle the complex regulatory requirements is seeing a shift in the supply chain. In fact, UPS is already employing pharmacists to fill 4,000 orders each day for insulin pumps and other supplies needed by customers of a major medical device company. They have effectively cut several steps out of the supply chain by bringing the pharmacists onsite and shipping directly from the warehouse.
  2. Warehousing – To offset the potential increase in demand for drugs and devices, shipping companies are also investing in huge warehouses to service multiple pharmaceutical firms.
  3. Healthcare Supply Chain – Hospitals and other healthcare providers are focused on improving efficiencies and containing costs. To achieve both goals, they rely on streamlined supply chain management, as well as group purchasing organizations (GPOs). As participation in GPOs increases, the specialized supply chains they oversee will also see increased activity.

Healthcare IT applications play a huge role in managing these changes and integrating patient and disease information with hospital networks, pharmaceutical giants, pharmacy chains and medical device makers. One such HIT innovation is the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), which also can be shared online through secure networks, help to reduce duplication of services, improve quality, lower readmission rates and improve chronic care delivery.

I am curious to see other HIT applications which will help contain the healthcare supply chain in the future. The data networks are bound to become more complex and so are the supply chains but it is how these two interact with each other that interests me the most.


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