Pandemic shift to domestic medical suppliers is costing health systems more, Johns Hopkins VP says

Johns Hopkins Health System is now paying $9 for surgical gowns that used to cost 40 cents before the pandemic, Lisa Ishii, MD, senior vice president of operations at the Baltimore-based health system wrote in an article for Vox

In the last two decades, the U.S. healthcare system has come to rely heavily on international suppliers, especially in China, for thousands of essential supplies, such as surgical gowns and syringes, Dr. Ishii wrote. Last year, the U.S. was the largest importer of medical goods, including personal protective equipment, in the world. 

But since the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have shifted to using domestic suppliers who have been more reliable with transportation and trade. Domestic suppliers, however, are much more expensive and put hospitals and patients in greater financial jeopardy, Dr. Ishii wrote. 

High domestic prices are likely caused by a combination of increased costs of manufacturing in the U.S. and a boom in demand that has outpaced supply during the pandemic. 

Dr. Ishii said that in December, Johns Hopkins was paying 40 cents per surgical gown from a supplier in China. Now, it is paying $9 per gown from a domestic supplier, more than 20 times the former price. 

The high price has the potential to significantly increase healthcare costs and add to existing strain on healthcare providers, payers and consumers, according to Dr. Ishii. 

Dr. Ishii said the U.S. needs to diversify its supply chains and that federal and state governments can help by ensuring domestic product manufacturers aren't unfairly raising prices. 

Read the full article here.


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