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Supply Chain Vulnerability: Implications for the Healthcare Industry

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Recent high impact events such as the latest federal government system hacks and the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed critical supply chain vulnerabilities affecting the healthcare industry, manufacturing, and many other essential work areas.

Supply Chain Vulnerability Defined

The degree of susceptibility to disruption and damaging interference as a result of supply chain risk determines the vulnerability level of a supply chain and its ability to deliver the goods and services required by end users. Also, a supply chain is considered vulnerable if its disruptions and negative consequences exceed the effectiveness of any preventive mitigation structures in place.

Supply chain vulnerability is especially critical for the healthcare industry in that disruptions to transport and delivery of medical supplies and equipment, pharmaceuticals, digital and physical healthcare records and reports, and other essential items can cause serious delays in provision of quality and timely services to patients, medical professionals, and healthcare agencies with critical needs.

An efficient supply chain must consider a broad range of external factors such as the level of demand for products and services, the general availability of the requisite supplies, the amount of time required for transport and delivery of supplies from the country sourced, and political/geographic issues that may affect transport and delivery. For example, shipping and delivery of surgical tools or pharmaceuticals manufactured in another country may be impacted if a civil war occurs in that country.

Supply Chain Visibility Factor

Visibility along the entire length of the supply chain is not always a given for all parties involved, i.e., not everyone along the supply chain knows what everyone else is contributing to the process. Also, not all supply chain flows are agile and capable of flexibility in the event of delays or shortfalls. Therefore, any weak link along the chain becomes a vulnerability point for bad actors to infiltrate the supply system and gain valuable information, aggregating the data they gather from various weak points along the chain to discern the bigger picture and develop a successful attack strategy. Visibility becomes a critical consideration as supply chain emails, correspondence, phone conversations, and other communications are so vulnerable to breach.

Mitigating Supply Chain Vulnerability

  • Flexibility and Agility. Healthcare organizations must ensure their supply lines are agile, able to quickly and flexibly compensate with alternative resources in the event of a supply chain disruption.

  • Process Visibility. All personnel along the supply chain should be educated on each section’s role in the delivery process so that they recognize the importance of maintaining timely performance and secure communication practices to avoid risk of breach.

  • Endpoint Monitoring. Healthcare agencies should monitor the supply chain in search of vulnerability points, recurring disruptions, and other weaknesses.

  • After-Action Analysis. Once weaknesses in the supply chain process have been identified, analysis should be conducted to find solutions.

  • Supply Chain Breach Response Plan. Finally, an Incident Response Plan should be developed and implemented to provide standard operating procedures in response to supply chain breaches as well as preventative maintenance best practices.

Gold Comet Solution to Supply Chain Vulnerability

Gold Comet has taken a keen interest in supply chain risk, especially as it impacts the healthcare industry. Gold Comet’s patented solutions provide Secure Email Messaging, Secure File Storage, and Secure File Sharing which can significantly strengthen existing supply chains and make them less vulnerable to attack.

For More Information

Read this informative article from Carahsoft on Ransomware in Healthcare and Utilities.


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