Daniels faculty member leads collaborative effort
The University of Denver Hospital Supply Chain Management Training Center, launched in Yangzhou, China, in partnership with North Jiangsu Hospital, is set to start implementing new strategies to build more resilient supply chains throughout China’s health care industry.
In its early stages, the first-of-its-kind training center will draw on resources and expertise from DU’s supply chain management program to develop a set of best practices to increase the efficiency of existing supply chains and limit the potentially harmful effects of future disruptions. Beginning with North Jiangsu Hospital, the focus will be on implementing those best practices into ongoing operations and training employees on supply chain management, with the goal of fostering and establishing long-term collaborative efforts on health care.
Building efficient and resilient health care supply chains is a necessity, says Jack Buffington, academic director of DU’s supply chain management program and an associate professor of the practice in the Daniels College of Business Department of Marketing. “In health care, we’re increasingly finding the importance of the supply chain in order to enable the clinical care,” he said. “You can imagine if you go in for a knee surgery, and they’ve scheduled the doctor, they’ve scheduled the nurse. But if the materials aren’t there, they can’t perform the surgery.”
Without the means to put the necessary resources in the right place at the right time, the ability of health care professionals to care and provide for their patients is diminished. And when the cause of the supply chain disruptions is worldwide, the impacts are far-reaching.
Across many industries, the global pandemic brought supply chains to their breaking points, but its effects on health care were more visible than most. “Through COVID, we saw what happens,” Buffington said. “When there’s not enough medicine, not enough masks and not enough personal protective equipment—the whole system shuts down. In China, as their system is growing because of the number of people that they have, this is a tremendous opportunity to improve how [the health care supply chains] work.”
Whether it’s a lack of crucial life-saving medical equipment or a delay that causes patients to wait to seek care, disruptions to these supply chains have life-or-death consequences. Placing attention on the supply chain side, Buffington said, will allow hospitals to better prepare for—and adapt to—future disruptions, providing better outcomes for their patients and society as a whole.
With the need for health care services projected to grow in both the United States and China in the coming years, ensuring that resources are available when and where they are needed is becoming an increasingly complicated task. Existing strategies for predicting, managing and operating health care supply chains are falling short, but with the right planning and expertise, a more robust system can be developed. “Supply chains in health care need to evolve,” Buffington said. “We have people with experience in other fields that will help improve how health care supply chains work.”
Beginning with the collaborative initiative with North Jiangsu Hospital, the training center’s long-term goal is to expand into more of China’s hospitals, establishing increasingly resilient supply chains throughout the country’s health care industry. “We see this as an opportunity to expand beyond that one hospital,” Buffington said. “As it grows, there will be opportunities for additional faculty and student involvement.” Finding room for cooperation on health care, he says, is one of the most exciting aspects of the training center. “There are a whole bunch of opportunities there for partnership and collaboration in a time when we really need things like that.”