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Telehealth Logistics: Overcoming Barriers to Innovation

Telehealth is becoming a smarter and faster option for a lot of patients. But there are certainly myriad challenges facing the associated supply chain created from scratch.

Irina Rosca, Senior Director of Supply Chain at Helix, is a seasoned supply chain professional with over 15 years of experience in various industries. She currently works in the healthcare field, focusing on the efficiency and privacy of in-home health kits. Her background began facing supply chain demands of wine imports for a 5-star restaurant group before she went on to shipping sporting supplies — each endeavor with its own unique challenges. Irina shares with us the challenges of telehealth and the importance of ease of return, integrity of samples, privacy and more.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Why hospitals lack overall inventory management systems
  • When weather and seasons should be considered in supply chain planning
  • Where telehealth logistics is facing barriers to innovation


Why hospitals lack overall inventory management systems (and why it makes innovations difficult)

Hospital care can be pertinent to the health and survival of individuals worldwide. With high community investment and reliance, people expect their care to be organized, tools and tests to be readily available and medication to be unexpired. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

According to Irina, hospitals have some of the most disorganized inventory management systems, largely due to the lack of innovation in the field.

“Hospitals don’t generally have an overarching management system,” Irina says. “Different departments are in charge of their inventories and ordering — there’s a lot of clashing and lack of communication.”

The lack of innovation in the field is a revolving force. Without the development and change that would enable a greater organization across hospitals, future innovation is also stifled.

Irina says there are additional reasons innovation gets stymied in healthcare. First, most hospital leadership often comes from medical backgrounds and lack alternative views to inventory management. Just as different departments function on various systems, locations also have widely differentiated management systems. Additionally,, the barrier to entry is significantly high, while solution adoption is very low.

Despite difficulties in innovation in the field, it’s extremely beneficial for entrepreneurs to enter this space and create more ease in healthcare.

When weather should be considered in telehealth supply chain planning

The emergence of widespread telehealth was abrupt. But countless benefits have been shared by hundreds of thousands of people who utilize the available services. Yet, while access has been easier for many, the seemingly overnight expansion of telehealth required the development of a brand-new supply chain.

When faced with the challenge of high demand and the criticality of quick turn-around times within COVID testing efforts, Irina’s team developed a new shipment system. While their system was 96% successful, the team learned that considering weather and seasons can play a huge role in the supply chain.

In the case of telehealth and medical tests, weather can cause delays — something that can be detrimental to time-sensitive tests. Likewise, tests may be in greater demand during seasons when illness is more apt to spread.

Regardless of industry, supply chain planning should consider the importance of seasonality and weather.

Where telehealth logistics is facing barriers to innovation

While telehealth allows patients to be conveniently cared for in their own homes, there are quite a few barriers when it comes to testing and other systems that require physical distribution.

For example, distributing and collecting samples from patients poses challenges in timely, clear and accessible shipment — existing infrastructures are often too bulky and expensive to implement on an individual level, but affordable options can take too long and be disorganized.

“One of the biggest challenges is actually getting the patient to return their sample in a timely manner,” Irina says. “We want to ensure the unit returns to us as soon as possible with the lowest impact on the patient and the quickest delivery possible.”

There is much hope for innovation in telehealth and at-home testing kits. For example, Uber and similar companies have begun to offer shuttle services for medical tests and kits from patients’ homes to shipment facilities. However, many of these options still require patients to schedule pickups.

Telehealth offers many benefits and significant room for development across the field. But it’s important to always keep in mind that the telehealth supply chain currently relies heavily on an existing structure that is not built for at-home treatments and testing.

Connect with Irina at https://www.linkedin.com/in/irinarosca/

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