To help answer questions on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the U.S. healthcare supply chain, The Journal of Healthcare Contracting reached out to Michael Schiller, CMRP, senior director, Association for Health Care Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM), a professional membership group of the American Hospital Association (AHA). The following were his responses from the early spring.
The Journal of Healthcare Contracting: Can you provide us with some insights into what is going on at a national level in the U.S. healthcare supply chain?
Michael Schiller: The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for use of NIOSH approved N95 masks to supplement healthcare organizations’ mask inventory, and the CDC has issued strategies for optimizing the supply of N95 respirators. A checklist for healthcare facilities and utilization of N95 masks beyond the manufacturer designated shelf life can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirators-strategy/index.html.
The CDC has also stated that based on local and regional situational analysis of PPE supplies, facemasks are an acceptable alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand. More information regarding these recommendations can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/control-recommendations.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fhcp%2Finfection-control.html.
Healthcare organizations are encouraged to work with their suppliers, understand product shortages and allocations they may be facing or expect to face, and identifying and implementing conservation measures, as well as work with their State and Local emergency management agencies.
JHC: How is the government coordinating with providers, GPOs, associations, etc.? What are the conversations like?
Schiller: AHA has coordinated a number of calls with healthcare executives, regulatory agencies, State, Local and Metropolitan Hospital Associations. All conversations have been extremely collaborative, focused and engaging.
JHC: What product categories are most affected by COVID-19?
Schiller: Personal protective equipment (PPE) including gowns, gloves, and respirator masks, and blood supplies are the most affected categories. It has been projected that there are over 1,900 medical/surgical items and pharmaceutical items on allocation. AHRMM is actively working with healthcare leaders, associations, suppliers, and distributors from across the health care field, sharing information and solutions around resource allocation conservation, supply continuity and availability.
JHC: What do supply chain leaders need to know about the supply and distribution of the coronavirus test kits?
Schiller: Supply chain leaders should work closely with their laboratory department and staff on the procurement and inventory levels, and management of the COVID-19 test kits.
JHC: How are you advising hospitals and health systems to navigate any supply disruptions?
Schiller: First and foremost we recommend healthcare organizations visit the CDC COVID-19 website (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html) to access the resources and information they have compiled. We are encouraging supply chain professionals to review and implement the CDC strategies for the extended use and limited reuse of N95 filtering face piece respirators in the healthcare setting and, review the surgical N95 masks that have been approved for use. For a comprehensive listing of the NIOSH approved masks visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/respsource3surgicaln95.html. Lastly we encourage reviewing the CDC’s strategies for optimizing the supply of N95 respirators; crisis and alternate strategies by visiting www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirators-strategy/crisis-alternate-strategies.html.