Supply chains have been in the news a lot in recent months. From toilet paper to microchips, it seems everything has been in short supply at some point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The healthcare supply chain has not been immune. Remember when COVID-19 vaccines were in short supply? Or when people were making facemasks at home for healthcare workers?

It has taken a bit for the supply chain to catch up, but it has caught up. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration removed N95 respirators from the medical device shortlist in August 2022, more than two years after the start of the pandemic.

Shortages experienced during the pandemic highlight why the healthcare supply chain must have robust, built-in protections. Global networks ensure supplies and medicine remain available if one part of the network is compromised. Otherwise, patients and healthcare professionals are put at risk of injury or worse.

Lessons learned during the pandemic will no doubt be built in to future healthcare supply chains. But it won’t be as easy as it may seem to an outsider. Healthcare supply chains require a lot of time and effort to build.

The process often begins years before a product or medication is approved for use. Manufacturers must plan how they will make their products available downstream, even when faced with a man-made or natural crisis. Distributors must strategically stock adequate supplies to account for sometimes fluctuating demand. It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure, but one the industry is prepared to meet.

The nation’s 6,093 hospitals and 66,000 pharmacies are the termini of this complex system that routes medications, supplies and technology from their origins with a manufacturer to patients. Without the ability to consistently rely on this network, patients wouldn’t be able to access the care needed to live long, healthy lives.

That’s why we want to take an opportunity during National Healthcare Supply Chain Week to recognize all those who work so tirelessly to ensure patients always have access to life-saving medications and supplies.

As a medical supply distributor, Cenmed knows first-hand the intricacies of planning for healthcare needs during both normal and unprecedented times. We value our important position in the healthcare supply chain matrix and have the utmost respect for our partners and fellow distributors.

We salute everyone working to drive the global healthcare supply chain. Our hats are off to your efforts to keep the world a safe, healthy place.