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Matching supply and demand

March 6, 2023
by Healthcare World

Automation can create a better healthcare ecosystem, Praful Mehta CEO of Vamstar tells Healthcare World 

There is a general recognition that the healthcare sector provides huge amounts of data. It’s also agreed that there is a huge amount of waste and duplication of processes, given the complexity of healthcare organisations and the clinical requirements. And again, that many clinicians and data scientists have devoted time and energy to resolving the issues that affect them most closely.

For Praful Mehta, this has been supply and demand. A geneticist by training, he moved into the industry 20 odd years ago and has played roles in commercialising various products in Asia. He then moved to GlaxoSmithKline globally within the senior leadership, and for the last decade has focused on pricing access and value in various countries, advising governments and suppliers and buyers in the market on how to create a better healthcare ecosystem.

HW: How is Vamstar different from other platforms? 

VamStar is the first fully AI based supply chain platform that looks at the demand and supply patterns in the market, and matches to the needs of the local ecosystem. We work in 100 countries and we collect data on the buyers side, looking at the demand from public systems along with its scope and structure. We then have suppliers in the system matched to that demand. We have a number of tools and technologies built to support that supply and demand and to improve the efficiency of the transaction and trading processes that exist within markets. Much of our platform is super localised from that point of view.

We started the company in 2019 from three co-founders to 150 people today in five countries. We work locally in the UAE and Saudi and we are also expanding significantly in other GCC markets. Similarly in Europe, we work locally in the UK, in many of the countries in in Europe and in the Far East as well.

HW: What was it that you were able to offer during the pandemic that enabled you to grow so exponentially? 

Within healthcare, there was a big realisation that digital is the way forward and engaging with the buyers must move digitally, so we leveraged that on the backdrop of COVID. Our clear value is that costly and manually run processes can be automated with the help of our tools and platform. In addition, both the buyers and suppliers have much better visibility of the market, including pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, all hospital and care setting medical supplies, and also surgical products and equipment.

Our platform is a two-sided approach on both the supply and buyer side. We set specific companies and organisations on the platform so they can keep their processes completely aligned and scan the wider market. We offer the entire platform as software as a service, or SAAS, which means that the buyer or the supplier can access the data at a fraction of the cost.

We work with all major companies, so we are well-versed in large enterprise systems or ERP systems. This inclues procurement systems on the buyer side and with CRM systems on the supply side. It’s very expensive for most buyers and suppliers to gain access to harmonised data, so we do this at scale for them.

We work with local laws and regulations when it comes to data hosting, data privacy and regulation standards. We follow all local protocols so it’s hyper-fast and super-connected in one single platform.

HW: Tell us about your work in the GCC 

Large organisations in these regions approached us during COVID for technologies to make them more efficient in their supplier engagement. We expanded quite significantly in the UAE, especially in the private sector – we began with one or two hospital groups and now have up to 70 per cent of all private hospitals on the platform. We are slowly making our way into other GCC markets by working again with large buying groups, bringing the use of analytics and AI in terms of understanding what buyers buy and where they buy.

Many customers focus on common and generic products such as medical supplies and everyday items. They utilise us for specialised products with only one or two select suppliers, and we provide them with the ability to manage their supply chain on the platform.

The real value add is being able to scan the market for comparable products. And in terms of hyper-specialised product, we can provide visibility of products that can improve the level of care, for example in diabetes or in oncology. It’s about an in depth understanding of the products, along with the data, that helps buyers make the right product decisions for the care environment.

We are making investments going forward in Saudi and will be expanding our teams both in Saudi Arabia and in the UAE. From our supply chain platform point of view, we are selectively focussed on key markets within GCC, Europe and Latin America, targeting the countries where we see maximum inefficiencies which we can resolve.

HW: What is your vision for Vamstar? 

There’s a sizeable amount of waste in healthcare because the same processes are repeated by suppliers and buyers many times over. Our goal would be to aggregate and standardise those processes in a common system to improve efficiencies. This could also mean a common exchange for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, developing into a clearinghouse for the industry and standardising repeated processes where there is a lack of data. Automation allows this to become leaner and cleaner, meaning better profits for both suppliers and buyers.

As we mature our data and connect systems, this will enable both buyers and suppliers to plan for the future. Not only in regard to products and services, but also when it comes to new innovations and new solutions. It would be around collaborating and even merging some of these products together into one common unified system.

The lack of standardisation is one of the major pain points in healthcare, especially around data, and we are trying to solve this problem. But when it comes to actual utilisation of that data, whether it’s in clinical processes or in supply chain, it’s very limited. We are looking at developing systems and scaling technologies which can utilise that data and improve the quality of care.

HW: Do you see healthcare from global viewpoint? 

Yes, there is a lot of willingness to look at health care systems holistically. One big realisation has been that healthcare supply chains are completely intertwined and very complex, and the costs are out of control in pretty much most major markets. We actually see a lot of harmonisation coming up as buyers or healthcare actors are learning from each other.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular are already taking some fast moving forward steps for the future around the digitalisation of healthcare. And we have much to share and learn from the stakeholders as well.

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