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Will supply chain establish a new normal?

August 18, 2020
From the August 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Valerie Dimond

Just when the U.S. thought it could get back to “normal,” the COVID-19 pandemic raged on with an uptick in cases and increasing strains on hospitals.
Now, many healthcare supply chain executives are rethinking what normal even is — and not only for today but tomorrow. Working through this crisis has supply chain reassessing how it responds and operates no matter what’s happening.

Amanda Chawla, vice president of supply chain at Stanford Health Care – Stanford Children’s Health – Stanford Valley Care in Palo Alto, California recognizes the lessons learned and she’s using that knowledge to map future success.

Amanda Chawla
“We must take the time in crisis to learn from the experiences, uncertainty, and make changes for the future,” said Chawla, who describes the process in stages. “The response stage is perhaps the most visible time in which you are required to be flexible, collaborate, lean in, and make quick decisions,” she explained. “The next phase is recovery, where we take a breath to learn from our wins and failures to accelerate the following step: restoration or establishment of the new normal.”

The last stage, post and prevention, may be one of the most challenging to sustain because of a tendency to revisit old habits after the dust settles instead a bold investment in new strategies.

“Emergency preparedness is the most vital element, and while there are requirements of preparedness, assessments, and drills, we must do annual reviews of risk and scenario-based planning,” Chawla said. “Scenario planning and continuous preparation is not a negotiation for the next emergency, it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.” She says Stanford’s supply chain is making a commitment to this stage with a dedicated resiliency leadership role and solid partnership with the Office of Emergency Management.

Other issues had to be assessed as well when developing a plan that would also keep purchasing aligned with Stanford’s overall business objectives. Many hospitals, including Stanford, rely on a just-in-time low unit of inventory, which means partnering with distributors that carry high stock levels. However, COVID-19 threw a heavy obstacle onto that path.

“With this pandemic and the immediate surge of demand and lack of inventory and supply, Stanford felt the impact of COVID early on,” Chawla said, adding that the first COVID inventory order was placed in late January. “Within a week of the first order, Stanford responded with the creation of a new asset account, and a plan to warehouse PPE inventory, recognizing the dependencies, vulnerability, and the potential volume of products required.”

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