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from Healthcare Purchasing News – April 22, 2020

Most U.S. healthcare organizations have disaster preparedness plans in place to address infectious disease outbreaks, man-made or natural disasters, bioterrorism or other events that result in a surge in demand for patient care. But COVID-19 aka “Coronavirus” has unleashed an epidemic that has left the U.S. healthcare industry reeling. Surging cases and supply shortages are necessitating close collaboration among critical care clinicians and supply chain teams to direct supplies, capital equipment and services to where they are most needed.

In this article, HPN presents perspectives from clinicians, supply chain professionals, manufacturers and technology providers on the importance of critical care/supply chain collaboration to combat COVID-19.

Recognize and address potential shortages now

Karen Conway, former chair of AHRMM and Vice President, Healthcare Value with GHX, commends supply chain procurement leaders who are actively seeking qualified alternative products and suppliers as their usual sources are unable to fully support their needs. In her April 2020 Healthcare Purchasing News article, “How standards support supply continuity,” she notes that unique device identifiers and classification systems can facilitate identification of alternative products, but she adds, collaboration with clinicians is key. Conway recommends making sure clinical leaders have access to evidence about alternatives so they have confidence that unfamiliar products are both safe and suitable for purpose.

Changes in clinical mindset

John Cherf, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Lumere and CIOO of Chicago Institute of Orthopedics, says COVID-19 is requiring clinicians to have a change in mindset better aligned with how supply chain allocates limited resources.

“Physicians are taught to do everything they can for every patient, but the current situation requires a much higher degree of deliberation on how we deploy limited resources,” said Dr. Cherf. “That is not easy for physicians to do but it is imperative given supply restraints. When there is only X amount of this supply or drug, the healthcare system must employ a great deal of discretion.

“This requires an entirely different approach – it’s about prioritizing societal needs,” Dr. Cherf added. “In order to be successful, caregivers must be equipped with the right information and tools. We must improve how clinicians and supply chain teams are collaborating in real-time. I believe in the end this public health crisis will accelerate positive system-wide change.”

Impact on future supply chain

Dr. Cherf believes COVID-19 will have a significant, permanent impact on healthcare supply chain in the years ahead.

“When you think of other infectious outbreaks, such as SARS, Ebola and MERS, they were somewhat localized,” said Dr. Cherf. “COVID-19 is infecting people on a much broader scale, placing intense pressure internationally on the supply chain. I would venture to say that when all of the dust settles and this infection subsides it will be an indisputable fact that supply chain is an integral part of the health of global healthcare.

“This is probably the most pressure on our healthcare system in living history and I think we can manage it – provided we rally around information and best practice sharing,” Dr. Cherf added. “One thing we are finding with this crisis is that it is inspiring ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurship in our country. For example, hospitals are using new algorithms and workflows for improved utilization of supplies to determine who truly needs to be tested and treated. I believe healthcare will be much smarter in how it stratifies patient populations in the future. We will be much more creative in the way we deliver care, plan for supply shortages, and source critical supplies in the future than we have been in the past.”



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