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When trust runs away, the supply chain suffers

by Scott Wallask

November 19, 2010

By Scott Wallask, SAP Experts

It appears that trust – a cornerstone for all kinds of relationships – has somehow escaped from the healthcare supply chain:

  • "I don’t trust your data"
  • "We don’t trust your product has helped patient outcomes"
  • "They don’t trust our ability to be transparent about costs"

That was not what I expected to hear at the Gartner Healthcare Exchange 2010 conference in Boston on Wednesday, yet that notion came up over and over.

To an extent, a lack of trust is common in all industry supply chains, but it is an acute obstacle in healthcare, Hussain Manooj, managing vice president of AMR Supply Chain Research for Gartner, told me.

The good news is that the healthcare industry, including manufacturers, distributors, and providers, all recognize the problem. And for the first time, there is a wave of influence coming from patients, a.k.a. the consumers of healthcare, about the importance of supply chain decisions that benefit patient outcomes.

In other words, the ebb and flow of SCM should res ult in healthier people being discharged from hospitals and physician offices.

That statement is as real as it gets in business. If a piece of specialized medical equipment isn’t in stock, a patient in the operating suite might suffer.

On the other hand, there is also great opportunity to reduce costs in the healthcare supply chain by critically reviewing the need for emergency overnight delivery of medical items when, for example, two-day shipment would be just fine.

But try making that argument to a physician who ordered an item that he or she wants the next day. You might get labeled as someone who doesn’t trust a doctor’s medical expertise.

Once you understand that dynamic, the erosion of faith within the supply chain isn’t so surprising.

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