Supply chain management practices for improving patient‐oriented care

Bert Meijboom (Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands)
Saskia Schmidt‐Bakx (Avery Dennison, Hazerswoude‐Rijndijk, The Netherlands)
Gert Westert (Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare (IQ Healthcare), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Publication date: 3 May 2011



The purpose of the present paper is to discuss organisational problems that occur in situations that are complex because the treatment of patients requires input from multiple health care providers, and to argue conceptually how to resolve these problems by using SCM practices.


First SCM, being related to settings where several companies contribute to the production of one particular product, will be discussed in general. Since patient care is about service provision, the next to be examined will be service supply chains. Subsequently, major challenges in patient‐oriented care provision follow in settings where several health care providers are involved, based on which opportunities for applying SCM in patient care will be presented.


Based on literature addressing country comparisons of patient experiences, four major problem categories are distinguished: communication, patient safety, waiting times, and integration. Although problems also occur within organisational boundaries, the steps from one provider to the next generally represent the weakest spots in a system of health care providers. By applying insights from SCM, these problems can be tackled.

Practical implications

Problems with communication and integration might well benefit from the nomination of care coordinators. Information gathering and processing, i.e. both the availability of medical records of individual patients and information on provider performance, has to be improved. Breaking down functional barriers between care “silos”, within health care providers as well as inter‐organisationally, is a necessary condition for enhanced patient‐centred integration. Policy should also stimulate the provision of more coordinated services, for example, through integral cost prices for separate diseases (“case‐mixed accounting”).


This paper contributes to the emerging literature on using industrial processes or applying business concepts in health care. More specifically, insights from SCM are presented that contribute to patient‐oriented integration in situations where patients' needs cannot be fulfilled by one single (type of) institute. A supply chain perspective on patient care, combined with cross‐functional and cross‐organisational teams, continuous integration practices, lead time control, and appropriate information technology, shows to be promising.



Meijboom, B., Schmidt‐Bakx, S. and Westert, G. (2011), "Supply chain management practices for improving patient‐oriented care", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 166-175.

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