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You can never be too prepared, but how do you lay the groundwork without negatively impacting efficiency?

SupplyChain-Text-BlogHurricane Sandy. The Boston Marathon bombing. The 2011 tsunami in Japan. In addition to the lives lost and billions of dollars in damage, these infamous events negatively affected supply chain for all involved. Does your organization have what it takes to meet a serious supply chain disruption and persevere? Of course, events like these are rare. But what about labor disputes, IT outages, or other, less severe, weather events? Or something as simple as drug shortages or quality/compliance issues that lead to recalls or regulatory actions, resulting in product shortages? Crisis management and continuity of operations hinge on your organization’s ability to keep the supply chain functional.

So how do you protect the supply chain from serious and costly disruptions when the most obvious solutions undermine efforts to improve supply chain efficiency? It’s a fine line to tread, and perhaps this explains why some hospitals and health systems have done little to anticipate and/or prevent such incidents or mitigate the impact of these interruptions.

The most common disruptions

The incidents mentioned above are at the extreme end of the scale. Generally speaking, healthcare organizations face two types of crises or disasters that have the potential to disrupt the supply chain:

  • Mass-injury/casualty events and epidemics that can result in a rapid influx of patients in a short period of time.
  • Weather-related events that can result in an influx of patients but that also threaten the facility itself with potential damage and possible rapid evacuation of patients.

Both types of events, however, require that clinicians have relatively quick and easy access to the materials and devices necessary for patient care.

To ensure continuity of operations during a disaster, it’s important to understand how your supply chain is vulnerable during major events. You must consider how power, transportation, and communication may be impacted and affect the delivery of medications and medical supplies. IT systems could also be disrupted and cause interruptions and delays in patient care.

Mapping out a plan

What preparations can your facility make that don’t require a costly stockpile of supplies and medications? You might want to consider having a small stockpile of your most essential items. According to Healthcare Purchasing News, it’s a supply chain best practice to stock at least 96 hours’ worth of all critical items within the facility during a crisis[note][/note]. You may also consider disbursing your inventory so that all life-saving supplies are not kept in one location. There are also a few other key ways to prepare for supply chain disruptions.

First, and most importantly, make a plan! While this may seem obvious, not all facilities have an emergency protocol, and even if they do, not all facilities have included supply chain continuity in those plans. Your facility’s disaster plan should establish a communications network between employees, management, and suppliers. Then, remember that practicing a disaster plan is just as important as having one.

Communication is crucial

Not only is communication within your organization vital during a disaster, but also communication outside your walls. Part of your emergency protocol should include the ability to communicate with state and local authorities, especially regarding road closures and quarantines. Often, your suppliers will be able to access areas that others may not.

You should also form a disaster plan with each of your suppliers. Be aware of how their capabilities may be limited during a disaster, and secure backup suppliers if necessary. Remember, in order for your suppliers to best serve you during possible disruptions, they must understand your emergency response plan and possible needs.

To learn how Suture Express may be able to help on your road to emergency preparedness, visit us at or call 877-790-1873.

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