What corona teaches procurers and logisticians in healthcare vdz management of the future

What the professionals discussed. What the congress learned.

what corona teaches healthcare procurers and logisticians vdz management of the future

Wilfried von Eiff

The Corona crisis has not only brought supply bottlenecks for PSA products, but has also revealed serious gaps in strategy, digitization and organization in the supply management of pharmaceuticals and medical products with frightening clarity. Against this background, the aim of this year's hospital procurement congress was to:

– share experiences from the supply crisis triggered by the Corona pandemic, – draw insights and lessons from these experiences, and – derive recommendations for concrete measures that will prevent supply bottlenecks in the future and ensure that distribution logistics function optimally.

Importance of procurement management

The Corona pandemic has noticeably raised the profile of healthcare procurement management, i.e., purchasers and logisticians, in the minds of policymakers and the public, as well as internally within hospitals. The importance of the "purchasing and logistics" functions in terms of ensuring medical quality, patient safety, working conditions for employees and profitability of medical operations became clear. Active procurement management has helped overcome supply bottlenecks for system-critical products or. to conserve scarce product categories through smart management.

Effects of the Hospital Futures Act from a procurement management perspective

On the one hand, procurement managers are expected to contribute their expertise as purchasing professionals when it comes to identifying strategically relevant funding areas, developing concepts that increase digital maturity, and systematizing and managing the KHZG application process. On the other hand, the KHZG does not provide for a funding priority with the explicit goal of increasing the digital competence of purchasing and logistics. Improvements are needed here at the political level.

Digitization gap weakens organization

Nevertheless, it has been shown that the low level of digitization in the procurement management of German hospitals has acted as a mortgage against consistent bottleneck management. In particular, there was a lack of platform concepts for local, regional and national matching of demand and availability of system-critical products. Likewise, the control organization for the distribution of PSA products was partly chaotic. The purchasing associations in particular are called upon to act as a driving force in overcoming the digitization gap. This applies to platform concepts, master data management and registers for medical devices, especially implants.

At the first purely digital procurement congress of the hospitals of the signpost Media& Conferences GmbH on 02. and 03. December 2020, more than 300 registered professionals participated and discussed the impact of the pandemic on logistics, purchasing and contracting in more than 10 online sessions and workshops. The next hospital procurement congress will take place on 01. and 02. December 2021. more.

Glob ale supply chains or domestic production?

On the one hand, the Corona crisis has revealed the complexity of international production and logistics chains. On the other hand, it has been shown how vulnerable global supply chains are when they are structured according to the business principle of "economies of scale" and the selection of suppliers and production sites is based solely on the criterion of lowest cost. At least for system-critical products, there should be a (partial) relocation of production back to Europe, for example in the form of setting up a replacement production that can be activated in the event of a crisis. This requires government incentive systems for innovative national manufacturers in terms of investment aid, purchase guarantees and prices.

Winners and losers

Perhaps the most important insight of the Corona crisis for the future strategic reorientation of procurement management was that the "cost pushers" among the buyers were affected first by supply disruptions and existing customers were preferentially supplied. Supply relationships are economically successful and resilient in the event of a crisis if they are based on trust, fairness, reliability and commitment. Strategic partnerships will therefore (hopefully) shape procurement relationships in the future.


Procurement managers are challenged to determine the digital maturity level of their area of responsibility, identify efficiency gaps in purchasing and logistics processes as well as in clinical workflows, and develop new organizational concepts. In addition to understanding clinical processes, the procurement manager of the future will have to professionalize his digital process and technology expertise.

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