In recent years, the provision of products and services required by customers in KSA has been inefficient especially in hospitals. This means that there is need for the introduction of supply chain management and logistics in these hospitals. This report will look at supply chain management within the context of H1N1 crisis in KSA. To this end, the author will look at SCM in hospitals and how this could have managed the crisis.
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Thesis: Supply chain management in hospitals could have been used to effectively address the H1N1 crisis in KSA.
When customer’s demands increase the focus is on the supply chain managers. The process of improving the supply chain management system in hospitals has started on a poor note in Saudi Arabia and this is affecting the country in many ways.
H1N1 Crisis in KSA
Reporting on the First Case
The first case of H1N1 in KSA was reported on 3rd June 2008 on a tourist from the Philippines. Each day, there are new infections in KSA despite the fact that most countries in the world have been able to overcome the epidemic. By the end of 2009, Saudi authorities had confirmed 15850 cases of H1N1 infections in the country (Almazroa, Memish & Alwadey, 2010).
The number of recorded deaths as a result of the virus stood at 124 (Almazroa et al., 2010). This means that there must be something unique about KSA which makes it report such cases when other countries in the world are reporting cases of success in fighting the epidemic.
Predisposing Factors to H1N1 in KSA
It is believed that there is inadequate or inaccurate information available regarding this epidemic. This being the case, there has been an increase in the spread of the disease. This is for example given the fact that women wearing a veil do not usually wear a gas mask to avoid contracting the virus.
Given the fact that Saudi Arabia is the famous Hajj destination, it becomes clear that the issue of endemics such as H1N1 cannot be taken lightly considering that Hajj attracts many people from different parts of the world (Almazroa et al., 2010). Another factor which puts the country at risk of H1N1 is the fact that the country attracts a huge number of expatriates from different parts of the world (Almazroa et al., 2010)
In countries such as the United States of America, the first strategy adopted in handling the H1N1 crisis was reducing the impacts the disease had on the nation. However, the case is different in Saudi Arabia given the lack of vaccines, delay in treatment, enough hospital beds, masks and other protective gear.
Apparently, the pharmaceutical industry could not provide the hospitals with enough vaccines for the whole population due to inadequate supply. The poor supply chain system in the hospitals is to blame for the inability to provide such services, making Saudi Arabia unable to respond to the epidemic effectively.
Just before Hajj, Saudi Arabian authorities were trying to find a way to prevent the spread of the pandemic. They decided that the only way to overcome this was to ban some people from participating in the pilgrimage. These were groups such as children and senior citizens. The authorities also decided that the administration of flu vaccines and the use of protective gears like masks was another way to deal with the crisis.
Application of SCM in Hospitals During the H1N1 Crisis
Inefficiencies in the Hospital’s Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management is a difficult and complicated undertaking to any contemporary organization (Chandra & Grabis, 2007: p. 17). It can be defined as the “…..coordination (and management) of businesses and processes involved in producing and delivering a product or service” (Arizona State University [Arizona], 2010: p.8).
Parray & Kadri (2007) refers to a hospital supply chain management as “…..a set of approaches to efficiently integrate suppliers or vendors, transport and hospital services to achieve total quality management in health care services” (p.3). This is by optimizing the utilization of the resources in the hospitals.
SCM in hospitals plays a significant role when it comes to dealing with H1N1 crisis especially in the supply of vaccines, beds, protective gear and therapeutic drugs. This is one major way of dealing with the crisis yet in KSA the supply of vaccines is inadequate due to inefficiencies in the supply chain management system.
This is significant considering the fact that many towns in KSA are characterized by overpopulation thus high vulnerability of these communities as far as H1N1 is concerned. Take for example the case of Hajj where more than 2 million pilgrims are gathered in a tiny geographical area (Almazroa et al., 2010).
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Lack of Modern Technology
There is also the need for supply chain management systems in hospitals to use modern technology to make the process of importing vaccines more efficient. This will ensure that the process of packaging and transporting the vaccines is more efficient than it is now.
The adoption of modern technology will ensure that the vaccines reach the consumers in time. For instance, more vaccines should be available during Hajj and other festivities. This can be made possible if the hospitals use modern technology in their SCM and pay attention to the principles of SCM discussed below.
This will include computerizing the whole process of procuring and distributing goods and services to hospitals. These are goods like beds, vaccines and other drugs and also importation of trained personnel like doctors who are scarce in KSA.
DeScioli (2001: p12) proposes the use of Automated Point of Use System (APU) in computerizing HSCM. Such a system is composed of a device that is placed in various wards from where the practitioners are able to key in the supplies they need.
This can be adopted in KSA where the doctors and nurses are able to key in the vaccines they need to address H1N1 cases. Stark & Mangione (2004) propose the introduction of modern tools and processes such as “eSourcing, eAuctions, RF Technologies, Automated Data Retrieval” (p. 13) among others in addressing efficiency of HSCM.
Research and Development in the Industry
The hospital industry in KSA is ill equipped when it comes to research and development. This is especially so considering that H1N1 keeps evolving into new strains that vary from one country to the other based on the prevailing factors. KSA cannot depend on other countries to invent new vaccines for them to deal with the crisis. Neither should the government expect the citizens to travel in search of drugs in hospitals from other countries.
Supply chain management applies here when it comes to the manufacture and importation of research equipments for the hospitals. The supply chain management system can be used to make sure that the scientists working in various referral and research hospitals in this country have the right equipment and the right supplies to carry out the research.
Supply Chain Interruptions
After the first case of H1N1 infection was recorded, many companies closed down businesses to avoid the spread of infections for example in Mexico where it is believed to have started. This interrupted the supply chain management systems in hospitals because goods imported from Mexico could not be found.
Most hospitals in Saudi Arabia rely on goods and services from other countries around the world. This interruption in the supply chain system made hospitals in this country incapable of fighting the epidemic.
Supply Chain Management systems in hospitals should be modified such that they are able to deal with such interruptions. In other words, the supply chain management system should be versatile enough to overcome the challenges brought about by interruptions.
Principles of SCM in KSA Hospitals
Segmenting Customers Based on their Needs
This is basically identifying your customers’ needs and being able to provide all the goods and services they need in a one stop shop fashion in order to maximize benefits. In other words, this means that the supply chain management in hospitals should be able to cater for all the needs of the client from one platform if possible.
For example, the supply chain management system should be able to provide the scientist in the hospital with the equipments they need to carry out the research as well as distributing the vaccines developed by these scientists to the patients in the hospital.
Customizing the Logistics Network
Some hospitals have modified their logistics network in such a way that it can only address a single issue. This is for example modifying the supply chain management system in such a way that it addresses only the supply and distribution of drugs only.
It is noted that this may not be an effective way of providing goods and services to the hospitals. It is also not the best way to maximize profits for the hospitals. The hospitals can provide services that go hand in hand, complementing each other. For example, manufacturing and delivering H1N1 vaccines instead of importing them, manufacture of hospital beds, using locally available materials to build more operating rooms among others.
Forecasting Demand and Planning Accordingly
Understanding your customers, making reasonable assumptions and using various measuring techniques to gauge the demand for the services and goods by the customers are important. This will help in forecasting the demand of certain goods and services thereby making it possible to plan on how to deliver them.
For example, the supply chain management experts in the hospitals are able to determine the demand for influenza drugs in a given season. With this forecast, the hospital will then make plans to ensure that the drugs are available when needed.
Managing Sources of Supplies
To maximize profits, hospitals should endeavor to pay as little as possible for supplies. This means that they should make efforts to reduce the costs of the supplies. Most hospitals have no idea how to manage their supply sources.
This is especially so considering that such hospitals fail to keep track of the raw materials bought and where they have been sourced from. Supply chain management systems can address this by identifying the sources of the materials and keeping track of the costs incurred in the process.
Putting the Principles into Practice
From studies conducted in the past, it was concluded that there is no single hospital in Saudi Arabia that has succeeded in the supply chain management and logistics industry. Most hospitals blame this on the complexity of supply chain management industry and to the inability of the industry to carry out improvements. The industry is still facing problems and especially so in dealing with epidemics like H1N1.
There is need to implement strategies in order to put the above principles into practice. This way, the country and the supply chain management fraternity would have made efforts to address the crisis once and for all.
Transformation is Difficult
The first thing that experts in supply chain management systems in hospitals should realize is that transformation is a difficult and long process. Normally, people resist change and this becomes a problem when it is felt that there is a need to form a completely different supply management system. This is as opposed to improving the existing supply and management system.
The only way to undergo a successful and smooth transformation is by informing the affected people what you are intending to do and how you will do it. You should also inform them how the changes will affect their lives. Try also to encourage the participation of companies and members of the community by letting them try the new methods to see how effective they are to the hospital. In the process, the uncertainty surrounding the change will be a thing of the past.
To this end, Stark & Mangione (2004: p.9) argue that there is a disconnection between the people who are purchasing hospital supplies (such as managers) and those who are using the (such as physicians). This disconnection should be addressed by involving everyone in the decision making process.
Planning in Advance
Supply chain managers in hospitals should keep in mind that planning in advance is paramount in any project. The risks, maladjustments, shortcomings and positive attributes of the project should be considered.
This is especially so due to the fact that we are dealing with an epidemic which is very important. In order to help people embrace change, it is important to take into consideration all the factors that have been identified in this paper. This will lead to a successful and effective supply chain management system in KSA hospitals.
There is a correlation between the improvement of supply chain management systems and financial benefits. In Saudi Arabia, not only will an improved industry help in lowering the cases of H1N1 infections, but there is also the economic aspect of it. This is where the economy will improve due to a healthy and productive work force. The urgency to fight the endemic is increasing given that there is need to safeguard the health of all citizens.
Almazroa, M. A., Memish, Z. A., & Alwadey, A. M. (2010). Pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in Saudi Arabia: Description of the first one hundred cases. Annals of Saudi Medicine, 30(1): 11-14.
Arizona State University. (2010). Reducing healthcare costs through supply chain management. Web.
Chandra, C. & Grabis, G. (2007). Supply chain configuration: Concepts, solutions and applications. New York: Springer Science.
DeScioli, D. T. (2001). Differentiating the hospital supply chain for enhanced performance. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 2001.
Parray, S. H., & Kadri, S. M. (2007). Supply chain management in healthcare sector-Role of logistics. Indian Journal for the Practicing Doctor, 4(1): 3-4.
Stark, E., & Mangione, T. (2004). Top issues facing the hospital supply chain today. Healthcare Purchasing News, November 2004.