The pharmaceutical supply chain is facing one of its most critical tests from the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The unprecedented demand for healthcare supplies and services has forced the industry to rethink how to transport pharma goods quickly and safely to patients and how implementing new technologies could help tackle the unique challenges presented by the pandemic.
In this interview, Niels van Namen, Executive Vice President of Global Healthcare for CEVA Logistics, spoke to us about adaptability, patient-centricity, and what it takes to build a proactive supply chain.
The Covid-19 pandemic forces logistics leaders to find real-time solutions to questions and complexities of monumental importance. How can pharma supply chains build back better?
Niels: I believe the Covid pandemic has exposed many flaws in the end-to-end process, from sourcing raw materials up to the jab into a patient’s arm. Shipping cold chain products is not new for the pharma industry, but today there are real-time needs around planning and forecasting, availability of ingredients, and sourcing. We have also seen some countries struggle to get organized in the final mile. While we all realize there is a global interest in collectively managing the virus, many countries remain focused on their interest first.
What are some of the innovations helping make healthcare logistics proactive, rather than reactive?
Niels: Making healthcare logistics proactive is firstly about investing in the right IT solutions to be able to act proactively. That’s why we are using tools like “Validaide” that analyze potential risk and mitigate it. We are also using tools that help us list potential scenarios and identify alternatives. If we’re shipping to Copenhagen and know it’s snowing there, we proactively make sure there are no delays or a shipping alternative. Every little, tiny step is checked and controlled through sensors and a robust IT infrastructure. In this way, there is a whole technological dimension to this proactivity.
There’s also a process aspect to it, making sure we do all the proactive planning that we need to do.
The most important aspect is the cultural and organizational dimension: making sure people understand that there is a patient at the end of the supply chain. If we don’t bring a pallet of medicine on time or ensure the product’s integrity, this could seriously impact the health condition of the patient.
What would the benefits of proactive medical logistics for hospitals and patients be?
Niels: We can divide care and hospital care into two large groups: acute care, for which hospitals have been set up since the Romans. The other group is chronic care, which consumes most of the global spending and is projected to grow further.
Proactive medical logistics will help better forecast and serve patient needs. As concerns acute care, this will lead to being able to run hospitals more efficiently while safeguarding stock availability. In terms of chronic care, we will be able to serve patients better wherever they are and remove the hassle for them of needing to order and manage their needs themselves.
To what extent can a patient-centric supply chain improve crisis responsiveness?
Niels: There are two sides to improving crisis responsiveness through a patient-centric supply chain: forecasting & planning and agility.
In terms of forecasting and planning, the Covid-19 crisis showed us that we could run out out of all kinds of stock because we weren’t able to forecast the real needs and demands from the market, and then we were not able to source what we needed. In this sense, you need to really take a look at the whole supply chain: where are your dependencies? Where can you mitigate risk? How can you elaborate on different strategies if the world is closed, for example?
The second dimension is about decentralizing our healthcare system. Because of Covid-19, hospitals are full. If we can decentralize how we are typically set up in many countries, we can bring agility to crisis responsiveness if we can bring treatment to homes.
How can logistics help shift the focus to patient-centered Healthcare?
Niels: I believe logistics firms can play an integral role in ensuring value-based Healthcare that maximizes outcomes for the patient. This industry doesn’t own any of the pharma products, so our mission is to make sure that the pharma supply chain process is streamlined for the patient. I genuinely believe the world of logistics and the world of care will converge much more.