Event Recap: Building High-Touch Patient Supply Chains

Patient Outcomes: A Shift in Industry Focus

The healthcare industry is increasing use of patient outcomes as a measure of quality and value. This drives biopharmaceutical companies to focus on patients in their commercial operations, technical operations, and supply chain. It was first prioritized in rare diseases and the orphan drugs community. Today, healthcare supply chains for larger patient populations, as well as for newer innovative treatments, are becoming more patient-centric.

Improving patient outcomes with high-touch supply chains

Recently, our Supply Chain Working Group, consisting of over 60 biopharmaceutical supply chain professionals, discussed the significance and features of high-touch supply chain models. Outlining the two macro drivers of this shift, Converge Managing Director Todd Applebaum observed that healthcare providers face immense societal, economic, and governmental pressure to increase value per healthcare dollar – improving quality of care while simultaneously reducing costs. Also, innovations in science and technology are enabling companies to develop treatments for serious medical conditions at their genetic sources. These two drivers are working to both push and enable the focus on improving outcomes.

How High-Touch Patient Supply Chains Impact Patient Outcomes

Healthcare providers and payers understand that it takes more than just an innovative product to improve patient outcomes. Pressure is being pushed up the supply chain to manufacturers for assistance, leading manufacturers to respond in multiple ways:

  • Moving beyond the pill – Biopharmaceutical companies are providing additional services to patients to complement innovative products. These services may smooth onboarding, monitor treatment compliance over time, ensure timely follow ups, facilitate reimbursement, etc.
  • Building innovative supply models – Healthcare networks are pushing more treatments outside of the traditional hospital environment to reduce costs. Companies, therefore, must develop innovative models to bring treatments to new care settings. Drugs need to reach clinics, pharmacies, or homes without compromising integrity and safety. Innovative supply models include deploying direct-to-patient deliveries, forward stocking locations and drop shipping services. They often support sensitive and temperature-controlled products.
  • Bundling solutions – To ensure improved patient outcomes, companies are utilizing devices for convenience in administering treatment or for safety and reliability. They are providing bundled diagnostics, outcomes monitoring, and patient education and training.

Developing an Efficient High-Touch Patient Supply Chain Model

Our guest speaker, Natalie C. Costa, Senior Director of US Patient Supply at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, provided insights into building a high-touch patient supply chain. She highlighted that clearly defining the goal is critical to designing the systems and processes. She also shared features from Alexion’s experience to explain design decisions:

Focus on Compliance & Quality

Focus on Strategic Value of the Supply Chain Model to the Organization & Patients

Focus on Achieving Cost Advantage

Differences between Traditional & High-Touch Patient Supply Chains

Alexion’s patient-centric supply chain model addresses the need to maintain product integrity, manage chain of custody and deliver patient-specific orders within short durations. Natalie pointed out prominent differences between traditional and high-touch patient supply chain models. Unlike the traditional models, high-touch supply chain models are highly integrated with commercial organizations. They are focused on direct customer and patient relationships and offer flexible service. High-touch supply chain models have a faster processing time, along with higher on-time delivery rates and inventory turnarounds. On the other hand, they have lower downstream inventory levels and obsolescence rates. When compared to traditional supply chains of big pharmaceuticals, high-touch supply chains deal with small volumes at high costs. The availability of cost-effective customizable technology solutions is limited, and companies cannot apply traditional planning models in this environment.

Guest Speaker Q&A

When asked how high-touch patient models could evolve in the future, Natalie pointed towards collaboration and integration with supply chain partners. The right partners with the right technology improve supply chain visibility and increase on-time delivery rates. She predicts that customer segmentation will heavily influence the service model of a company going forward. For example, opting between direct-to-customer or specialty pharmaceuticals for drug distribution.

Natalie was also asked how Alexion stays aligned with patient treatment cycles. Regular patient outreach helps them collect relevant data and follow patients ordering patterns. It also helps modify services as needed, access markets efficiently, and manage payers and distributors effectively.


  • Patient outcomes as a measure of quality and value in healthcare is driving biopharma companies to adopt high-touch supply chain models.
  • Close integration and collaboration with the right internal and external supply chain stakeholders is paramount for building a successful high-touch supply chain model.
  • High-touch supply chain models require a more flexible and innovative approach to make time sensitive decisions and continuously manage risks, often leveraging real-time product visibility and customer data.