Some may have declared the pandemic over, but healthcare entities acutely remember the historic healthcare supply challenges they faced over the past two years. Many are no doubt still feeling the effects of pandemic-related shortages that impacted everything from patient care to cleaning efforts to meal delivery. While federal and state officials consider improvements to preparedness solutions like the Strategic National Stockpile, healthcare providers should act proactively on their own behalf. Doing so builds a cushion into their supply chains that can serve until manufacturers catch up with demand. All healthcare providers, from large health systems to single provider practices, must collaborate with their medical supply partners. Having conversations about how to manage future supply disruptions is a good place to start. But there are more concrete things healthcare entities can do to ensure they have critical medical supplies on hand. Here are four to consider:
Perform a Supply Audit
Healthcare providers should work with their medical supply distributors to analyze ongoing needs and build a reserve supply strategy. Using data and firsthand experiences gained during the pandemic, providers should answer questions about their specific supply needs. For example:
- Does your distributor understand exactly what type of PPE your organization requires?
- What are your organization’s critical medical supplies?
- Can your distributor have a backup plan for these items during supply chain disruptions?
- What is the most cost-effective way to store and maintain critical medical supplies?
- How many days’ inventory do you need during a non-pandemic year?
Answers to these questions will help healthcare entities build a robust stockpiling plan with their medical supply company. Once established, you must work together on implementation, if necessary.
Create Clinically Acceptable Substitution Lists
Healthcare entities should know which products within the same product category are appropriate substitutes. When shortages occur, this is vital information to have ready. A standard product identifier like the UDI Device Identifier and a classification system like the Global Medical Device Nomenclature can help build and maintain such a list.
Use Suppliers’ Warehousing Space
To stockpile medical supplies, healthcare providers need physical space. That comes with a big upfront price tag. Consider these stats from the Health Industry Distributors Association:
- A 350-bed hospital needs 5,700 square feet (15 tractor trailers) of storage space to house a 90-day supply of PPE
- A 5,000-bed hospital system would need 1.5 football fields to house the same supply.
With rising warehousing rental costs and low vacancy rates, many entities are contracting with medical distributors to not only provide supplies, but also store their stockpiles. Medical supply distributors have 76 million square feet of warehouse space at 500 centers around the nation. Providers can use this space to house their stockpiles, cutting down on the expense of storing it themselves. When the supplies are needed, the distributor manages the delivery logistics so healthcare entities can focus on caring for patients.
Healthcare entities that didn’t have established relationships with a variety of medical supply vendors before the pandemic often found themselves in a bind. When supplies were diminished, many providers used unproven vendors who did not follow through on promised deliveries or provided subpar quality products.
To avoid this during future health emergencies, forge partnerships with a broad range of supply providers now. Build a process that brings all vendors together to share resources, capabilities and information. During future health crises, these partnerships will allow you to pull from your own stockpile as well as access emergency resources such as government stockpiles.
Start conversations with medical suppliers now so you’re ready when the next wide-scale health emergency occurs. Reach out to Cenmed and learn how we can help your healthcare organization prepare for whatever comes next. Request a quote today!