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How strong supply chains can help cut healthcare costs

Inexpensive healthcare for Kenyan citizens will only be achievable if the logistics costs are tamed with better networks. file photo | nmg
Inexpensive healthcare for Kenyan citizens will only be achievable if the logistics costs are tamed with better networks. file photo | nmg 

Global trends such as rising consumerism, increased healthcare consumption, increasing costs of care and greater regulatory complexity spell change, challenge and opportunity in the industry.

By 2020, China is projected to spend $1 trillion on healthcare, driven by a growing middle-class and aging population. This is just one of a long list of statistics that illustrates the significant shifts that are happening in the healthcare industry today.

Counties in Kenya that will ultimately win in pushing the national healthcare strategic plan will have to review their supply chains as strategic areas for innovation.

Trends in the logistics industry now include collaboration and convergence meaning that supply chains must become inter-connected. The old linear model is out. Flexible logistics networks are in. And how do you move from a supply chain mentality to a logistics network? Three words: agility, knowledgeability and efficiency.

County chiefs will need to focus on building agile logistics networks that give them the ability to quickly accommodate different types of products, leverage new distribution channels to reach wider populations and prioritize risk management to ensure continuity in the flow medicines and services.

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It is key to note that one supply chain model will not work for every county and every sub-county for that matter. Counties will need supply chains that will specifically enable their penetration and outreach strategy.

Supply chain analysis and mapping will tell counties whether or not their current supply chain design will enable their future strategy and how to adapt. Strategic partnerships are one way to build more knowledgeable supply chains.

Pharmaceutical companies and logistics service providers who are market leaders in efficiency are becoming more innovative in how they leverage partnerships and new distribution models to enter new and emerging markets and serve new customer bases.

They are taking advantage of existing third-party assets such as multi-client distribution centres and external regulatory expertise. Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) could probably have a peep at such scripts.

This will be a direction (among others) of improving the health of all Kenyans by increasing the availability, accessibility, affordability, and appropriate use of essential medicines and health supplies.

There is need to have basic understanding of what a health supply chain system is and how supply chains link to access to healthcare through the availability of medicines.

Reliable healthcare supply systems should and must make the right kinds of affordable quality medicines available in the right quantities at the right places and at the right time, supported by the right policy interventions.

Inexpensive healthcare for Kenyan citizens will only be achievable if the logistics costs are tamed with better networks, with supply chains strengthened to be more efficient.

Jack bwana is Trade, logistics and supply chain consultant.

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