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How the supply chain can become the backbone of health care anywhere

The health ecosystem of the future will revolve around individuals’ quest for lifelong wellness. Care will be delivered whenever and wherever the consumer is.

The health sector is witnessing drastic change in the way goods and services are delivered. This is due both to the move away from episodic sick care and toward a focus on wellness and preventing illness, as well as changing health consumers expectations for greater convenience, flexibility and “anytime and anywhere” health care.

To meet this new delivery model demand, a convergence of non-health industries are entering into and reshaping the health arena. There are weekly announcements of new acquisitions, mergers or partnerships between and across industries, often with unlikely companies uniting in an effort to focus on health.

This all adds up to profound — and mostly positive — changes for health supply chain and logistics companies. Meeting new delivery demands and solving for how nontraditional companies will interconnect elevates the importance of supply chain and logistic companies’ role in delivering health care to consumers.

Future supply chain and logistics winners will construct end-to-end, multimodal delivery networks that encompass all stakeholders — clinicians, pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners, lab companies, payers, technology and data analytics companies, and, of course, wellness and health consumers (along with their family members).

Three key points for supply chain companies to keep in mind

1. Supply chain companies are an essential part of the decentralized vision for health, delivering customized, fast care anywhere.

When the consumer is at the center of a vortex of products and offerings, and care is a delivery away, moving upstream of delivery and logistics may be the only way to compete with the juggernauts of online retail.

  • Health is more connected, and care will be delivered literally anywhere, reaching the patient wherever they are physically located. Platforms of care are being created around making this vision a reality. New technologies are emerging to enable the growth of health care, allowing patients to order nonemergency medications directly from their computers and phones — for baldness, erectile dysfunction, birth control and other purposes. New patterns in pharmaceutical distribution are also emerging: companies are sidestepping drug supply chain intermediaries and reducing visits to doctors by simplifying prescribing and delivering drugs directly to patients. 
  • Patients want in health care the same-day delivery and on-demand access they experience in media and retail. Supply chain organizations can be the answer for fast care delivery — requiring innovative solutions for direct-to-consumer deliveries with a more flexible and speedy last-mile process. 
  • Consumers are beginning to expect personalized health products and services, and the industry is responding. Health and life sciences organizations are investing in research to understand what drives individuals’ behavior, how engagement styles differ and how tolerance for risk and uncertainty will impact the effectiveness of various communications. For instance, companies are exploring ways to offer affordable DNA sequencing directly to consumers, opening the doors to truly personalized testing and treatment that could vastly improve patient outcomes for a range of diseases.
2. Data, predictive analytics and contextually relevant insights are the key drivers to streamlining supply chain processes.

Success for supply chain companies will come from an agile strategy that combines the ability to become ruthlessly efficient at the business of today while developing capabilities for a consumer-centric, decentralized and data-driven future — and doing so faster than competitors from other sectors.

  • The objective is for supply chain stakeholders to achieve just-in-time delivery with no waste and provide track-and-trace capabilities that create an auditable data trail. This is essential to support claims required in any value-based payment model, and achieving this positions supply chain companies to be strong partners of providers, pharmaceutical companies and payers. 
  • Data will be the engine of this future growth. Blending health care experience with network and platform capabilities is proving to be a critical type of convergence between traditional and nontraditional players. In fact, most of what influences health happens outside of medical practice. For health consumers, true value will come from integrating clinical and nonclinical data (lifestyle, environmental, genetic, etc.) enabled by mobile connectivity, inexpensive cloud storage, wearable and durable environmental sensors, and portable medical devices. Already, zettabytes of information are being collected across the supply chain, and every day, 750 quadrillion bytes of health care data are generated.
  • The explosion of new types of data — and vastly more of it — will give supply chain organizations an opportunity to help clients sift through the noise. The highway of information that runs alongside the supply chain will be invaluable to health stakeholders, including drug manufacturers, providers and payers. Harnessing the power of this data, the supply chain industry could reshape itself around the empowered patient-consumer. Predictive analytics and algorithms are crucial components of the solution, providing a holistic view of a patient’s health and logistics needs, along with robotic process automation, blockchain and 3D printing.
3. The supply chain must be secure and efficient.

As the proliferation of data and use of digital technologies increase in the health care supply chain, companies must prepare to address cybersecurity risks. As more sensors and devices connect to health and wellness platforms, there will only be more vulnerable entry points.

  • Securing data will rise to a new level of importance. Viewing cyber attacks as a critical business risk and implementing appropriate security and privacy policies can prevent both targeted and untargeted attacks. As business models evolve in the health logistics space, supply chain and logistics companies need to keep the focus on both securing current operations and developing a solid prevention and cybersecurity plan to address the new risks.
  • Connectedness is key. Consumers are more connected than ever, and the Internet of Things is making its way into health. The ability to collect, combine and analyze the data generated by new technologies to return actionable insights to consumers and health businesses is an essential component of a health platform strategy.
  • Data is crucial to efficiency and effectiveness. Logistics companies must not only deliver the right product to the right patient at the right time in the right dose and administered via the right route — but they must track, trace and prove it. Capturing and analyzing detailed data on supply chain shipments, usage and returns, claims and clinical outcomes provide real-world evidence on product efficacy. This means tighter control of inventory and delivery, optimizing control during transit and providing visibility throughout the distribution chain.


In the rapidly approaching future, supply chain and logistics companies will emerge as the critical backbone and information-based nervous system of “anytime, anywhere” health care.

These data-savvy logistics companies will collaborate with clinicians, biotechs, medical device manufacturers, consumer products companies and payers to create more compelling patient experiences that deliver better safety, quality and outcomes at a lower overall cost.

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