Looming Issues Impacting Product Availability

A variety of issues – both logistical and regulatory – are looming in the near future which may have a negative impact on product availability.

December 2022 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

By Linda Rouse O’Neill, Vice President, Supply Chain Policy & Executive Branch Relations

woman scanning boxes with inventory scanner

A variety of issues – both logistical and regulatory – are looming in the near future which may have a negative impact on product availability.

Device Sterilization: In August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would scrutinize commercial plants using the gas ethylene oxide (EtO) to perform sterilization of medical devices and other products. According to the Food and Drug Administration, EtO is currently used to sterilize approximately 50% of medical devices, about 20 billion medical devices annually. Only 2% of those devices are currently cleared by the FDA to be sterilized by other means. Putting limits on EtO sterilization in the United States would create sterile product shortages and could send even more of the medical supply chain overseas.

Medical Supply Chain Congestion: After one year of monitoring the medical supply chain, HIDA has only seen slight reductions in the length of shipping delays and the volume of delayed medical containers have been reported. There has been no change in the estimated amount of delayed medical supplies, and a decrease of only two days in shipping delays, from 27 to 25 days. Meanwhile, there has been a sharp decrease in the share of medical products transiting the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach which had been seeing longer dwell times for containers as compared with East Coast ports. In fact, HIDA has seen a 124% increase of medical supply containers at the East Coast ports – primarily at NY/NJ and Savannah. Over 90% of survey respondents reported the situation has stayed the same or worsened over the last three months.

Talk To Your Distributor: Your distributor can help determine appropriate lead times for shipping products in this new normal for the medical supply chain. Ask about resources such as supply assurance programs, sequestered inventory, and 3PL services for pandemic supplies.

These issues and others related to the flow of medical products will be the topic of discussion at HIDA’s Supply Chain Visibility Conference in February. The Supply Chain Visibility Conference brings healthcare industry leaders together to discuss ways to better ensure product availability, improve forecasting, and support patient care. The 2023 conference – our fifth annual event – offers a critical opportunity to build on recent experiences and advance visibility in the healthcare supply chain.

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