AHA supply chain leader urges healthcare industry to evaluate stockpiling, avoid slipping back into old habits

The U.S. healthcare supply chain remains strained due to high demand for personal protective equipment both domestically and abroad, the American Hospital Association said Sept. 9. But supply chain leaders around the country have learned important lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to vet the influx of new suppliers hitting the market and how to form strategic partnerships to combat supply shortages.

Mike Schiller, senior director of supply chains for the Association for Health Care Resource and Materials Management, a division of the AHA, discussed the lessons supply leaders have learned during the pandemic and the future of the U.S. healthcare supply chain in a recent blog post.

Mr. Schiller said he has seen more hospitals moving from single- to multi-source contracts to diversify their vendor portfolios and avoid shortages.

He's also seen a push toward domestic manufacturing. But, he says, this has the potential for increased supply costs down the road. 

An encouraging thing that has come out of the pandemic is strategic partnerships formed between suppliers and other companies, Mr. Schiller said. He noted that Kaas Tailored, an upholstery manufacturer based in Washington state, refocused its business to make masks and gowns. The company teamed up with Providence, a health system based in Renton, Wash., to create PPE and the joint company is now pursuing formal FDA approval to sell its products in the U.S. market. 

Mr. Schiller predicts the industry-wide cooperation will remain after the pandemic. But a challenge will be ensuring lessons learned during the pandemic stick. 

"We have to avoid slipping back into our comfort zones and operational practices," Mr. Schiller said. 

He also said U.S. hospitals need to reevaluate current stockpiling practices. 

"5,500 hospitals building their own individual surge inventories is impractical and places an increased and unnecessary demand on the already fragile healthcare supply chain," he said. 

The U.S. also needs a much more coordinated and strategic effort at the regional, state and national level to prepare for future pandemics, Mr. Schiller said. 

"We need to move away from individual conversations and refocus to higher-level conversations that bring all the stakeholders into the mix ensuring that the knowledge gained during this pandemic is amplified and addressed collectively throughout the healthcare field," he said. 

Read the full blog post here.


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