Mitigating Supply Chain Risk in the Healthcare Sector

15 May 2023

The global supply chain is critical to seeing the healthcare sector of Australia – and also other countries – run properly. This is something that may not always be immediately appreciated at a grassroots level, when someone is looking to see their doctor about a mild cold on a weekend afternoon. Yet, so much of modern healthcare is reliant on goods such as medicine and equipment, which is made in and/or transported through the global supply chain. It’s just one reason of many why risk mitigation being practised in this sector is critical. 

How Risk Mitigation Can Be Pursued

The first step to mitigating risk involves understanding there is no magic formula for any organisation or industry. The healthcare sector is no exception. This said, steps such as identifying and evaluating existing risks are essentially universal starting points. Thereafter, ranking by order of importance the impact of risk scenarios in the event they eventuate, and what could result if they do, commonly follows. Furthermore, just as diversifying suppliers and modes of transport can help diminish risks, so too is ongoing communication with stakeholders, and the regular reassessment of risks, vital as well.

The Pandemic Factor: The Past, Present, and Future

The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the challenges faced by a national population when global supply chains are placed under great stress. In many jurisdictions, the shortage of masks was commonplace in the early days of the pandemic. Also, a shortage of vaccines was seen, as governments who had ordered them encountered delays with their supply, and thus, setbacks within their plans to get their citizens back on the road to recovery. There’s little disputing that in 2023 Australia is in a much better place when it comes to Covid-19, than it was in years prior. Nonetheless, nobody has a crystal ball. Accordingly, we cannot yet know for sure whether we are indeed in the post-Covid-19 era, or we are still amidst it. 

It is unlikely we’d ever see a return to rolling lockdowns across multiple weeks and months if a worrying new variant arose. This said, any claim the nation has totally ‘turned the page’ is audacious and unproven. What’s more, while there was a century between the H1N1 pandemic in 1918 and Covid-19’s global outbreak in the early stages of 2020, the reality is the next pandemic is not expected to take another century to arrive. 

Since the H1N1 era, it’s a fact our economies have become more interdependent. In turn, international travel has gotten faster. Furthermore, our cities have been increasing their density, with more people working and living more closely together than in decades prior. Due to these changes, the odds in which a pandemic could arise and spread fast, are far greater. 

Accordingly, mitigating risk in the healthcare sector supply chain is certainly not just about making optimisations and minimising red tape headaches (important though these moves are). Ultimately, seeking to continually make positive changes in this sector could help stop a new Covid-19 variant – or even a new pandemic altogether – in its tracks