Group Purchasing Organizations: Supply chain leaders in emergency response


By Khatereh Calleja

Health crises like the coronavirus place enormous stress on the entire healthcare system, including first responders, physicians, hospitals, other healthcare providers, and the patients they serve. America’s healthcare providers and physicians are faced with a number of challenges – from obtaining necessary supplies to educating practitioners on proper response procedures – as they work tirelessly to treat and prevent the spread of the coronavirus and preserve patient care.

As the sourcing and purchasing partners to America’s acute and non-acute providers, healthcare group purchasing organizations (GPOs) play an important role in helping to support response efforts to emergencies like the coronavirus. Leveraging their line of sight over the healthcare supply chain, GPOs work with public and private healthcare stakeholders to ensure healthcare providers have what they need to effectively and efficiently combat public health threats.

GPOs work with healthcare providers to create preparedness plans to ensure uninterrupted patient care; to source alternate supplies of products in shortage and to respond nimbly to help hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers treat a surge in patients. In the event of an epidemic, GPOs work with their provider partners as well as healthcare stakeholders, and state, federal, and local health and emergency management agencies to ensure a coordinated, comprehensive response.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, GPOs are taking a number of innovative steps, including tracking emergency room data, surveying provider members to gain an accurate understanding of supplies on hand and estimate future needs, working with suppliers to see where potential supply shortages and disruptions might occur, and working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Congress, the Administration and all policymakers to inform responses. HSCA and its member GPOs are also actively supporting policy solutions like Medical Supply Chain Security Act, the Safeguarding Therapeutics Act and the MEDS Act which help enhance supplier resiliency, safeguard the supply chain and prevent and mitigate product shortages.

GPOs take their role as the sourcing and purchasing partners to America’s hospitals very seriously – a commitment that is tried and tested during emergency situations. As the United States continues to address the coronavirus pandemic, HSCA and its member GPOs will continue to work with Congress, the Administration, federal agencies and all healthcare stakeholders throughout the healthcare delivery system to protect the supply chain and ensure hospitals and healthcare providers are equipped to treat and prevent the spread of this disease and provide first-class patient care.

Khatereh Calleja, JD, is the president and CEO of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA)