Three Ways to Weather the Next Surge in PPE Demand

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As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains in the U.S. are still struggling to operate confidently and efficiently with essential supplies.

According to data from the nonprofit Get Us PPE, personal protective equipment (PPE) requests in October increased for the first time since April. It was also the third month in a row when more than 70% of facilities ran out of at least one type of PPE, reflecting a major challenge that this third wave poses: streamlining the supply chain to get PPE where and when it’s needed.

If we’ve learned anything over the past nine months, it’s that the traditional supply chain infrastructure leaves organizations vulnerable during a pandemic. Unfortunately, these demands and fluctuations aren’t disappearing anytime soon. But with a few process changes and technological upgrades, manufacturers can take steps to streamline the supply chain for organizations that urgently need essential supply.

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Non-hospital organizations, including senior living, nursing homes, home health aides, rehabilitation and shelters, are particularly susceptible to the essential supply shortage. In October, 92% of the facilities that made requests from Get Us PPE were non-hospital organizations. While many large hospitals have been able to make PPE orders in bulk from suppliers, smaller facilities often feel the brunt of supply-chain disruptions.

Essential supply manufacturers that sell their goods via traditional procurement processes must grapple with an opaque system for awarding supply. Sellers don’t want to lose the business of larger customers, like hospital systems, so they often prioritize funneling their scarce supply accordingly. And because the vetting and contract process is intensive, sellers often struggle to establish new relationships with manufacturers. That means there could be quality PPE suppliers with a surplus of inventory out there, but the complex or inefficient selling process prevents manufacturers from connecting with smaller, non-hospital facilities who desperately need their supplies.

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