Protecting the steady supply of critical, lifesaving medicines to hospitals, pharmacies, providers and patients is a complex process in normal times. During COVID-19, patient demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other products has escalated significantly, adding new and unique challenges for HDA distributor members who are working around the clock to meet the daily healthcare needs of all Americans.
As the private and public sectors work hand-in-hand to ensure medicines and supplies get where they need to go, and ultimately, into the hands of providers and patients, Cardinal Health is strengthening its collaboration with industry and government partners. At the same time, the company is rethinking how all parts of the supply chain are working seamlessly across networks to achieve this goal.
Leveraging Groundbreaking Technologies
With hospitals, pharmacies and providers facing unprecedented demand for lifesaving medications, PPE and other supplies, Cardinal Health began working with freight-tracking software startup FourKites in March 2020 to gain better visibility into its delivery network and maximize provider access to much-needed products.
First, the companies collaborated on an innovative pilot program to track shipments of PPE between manufacturing plants and Cardinal Health’s distribution centers. Further, they built a customized system to track temperature-sensitive medical products, now used in all Cardinal Health transport modes throughout the U.S.
Looking ahead, Cardinal Health and FourKites are collaborating on supply chain solutions for the “last mile” of delivery. While traditionally one of the most challenging links in the pharmaceutical supply chain, improving last-mile visibility has the potential to provide pharmacy customers even greater insight into when and where their delivery will arrive, freeing up more time for them to focus on patients.
Closing Gaps in Healthcare
Healthcare distributors traditionally offer logistics and value-added services to their pharmacy partners, allowing pharmacists to devote more time to patient care. To help address healthcare gaps that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, Cardinal Health recently developed MyScheduling, a new tool that helps pharmacists with vaccine administration logistics for COVID-19 as well as other immunizations and clinical services.
MyScheduling enables patients to seamlessly schedule and change appointments at their local pharmacy, significantly reducing administrative tasks for pharmacies, such as scheduling patients for both vaccine doses, creating patient waiting lists, gathering patient information and reporting on daily appointments.
The platform is being incorporated into Cardinal Health’s Connect digital ecosystem, which connects pharmacists, payers and pharmaceutical manufacturers to improve medication adherence.
Supplementing the Strategic National Stockpile
Healthcare distributors have supported the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) in its role supplementing state and local supplies for communities in need from the earliest days of the COVID-19 crisis. That vital role was further reinforced with the announcement that Cardinal Health reached an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to store and distribute 80,000 pallets of PPE to support the SNS.
As part of the agreement, Cardinal Health is leveraging its vast distribution network to rapidly deploy and deliver critical healthcare products throughout the country. The work will be directed by federal government partners and will help meet critical PPE needs in response to COVID-19 as well as other national or local public health emergencies.
PPE products that will be stored across Cardinal Health medical facilities includes gowns, gloves, face masks and other essential materials, such as disinfectant, that protect medical teams from exposure to a range of infectious outbreaks, including during surgeries and common medical procedures.
These efforts reflect how Cardinal Health is driving resiliency and maximizing value in the healthcare supply chain through collaboration with public and private partners.
Now, as the country seeks to turn the corner against COVID-19, and leverage lessons learned from the nationwide response to plan for future crises, the healthcare distribution industry continues to prove that we are in the unique position of having the logistics expertise, previous experience and ability to quickly mobilize — and problem-solve — in response to large-scale public health efforts.