Health Alliances Address Pandemics and the Medical Supply Chain

ICT spoke with Amy Denny, vice president of contract management for the Premier healthcare alliance, and Stephanne Hale, senior clinical manager of safety, contract and program services for Novation, about the influenza pandemic and its effect on the healthcare supply chain.

ICT: The H1N1 influenza pandemic affected the medical supply chain in interesting ways – what is your health alliance doing to protect members against shortages, flagrant price increases, supply-and-demand problems relating to hoarding/just-in-time inventory, etc.?

Denny: Recognizing that there would be a surge in demand for respiratory protection in hospitals as H1N1 cases become more widespread, Premier contracted with six additional, geographically diverse manufacturers to ensure an adequate and readily available product portfolio for hospitals. Currently, Premier contracts offer choices from nearly 90 percent of the total N95 and face mask marketplace to provide a reliable supply. Premier is in regular contact with the manufacturers of H1N1-related supplies, including respiratory protection devices and hand hygiene products, and we work with them to collect the most timely and relevant information on availability. Premier created a simple fact sheet and blast e-mail sent to 40,000 clinicians that explains exactly when N95 respirators and facemasks are required and how to prioritize their use based on the CDC guidelines. Premier also provides information on the documentation that will be needed for OSHA to show a “good faith” effort to obtain supplies, including order forms and statements from manufacturers affirming a lack of availability. The Premier Safety Institute has created a Web site (www.premierinc.com/H1N1flu) that is open to the public with weekly flu transmission reports; CDC updates for clinicians and healthcare workers on respiratory protection and vaccine planning; antiviral recommendations and guidance for special populations such as pregnant women or immunocompromised patients; lists of appropriate cleaning and disinfecting supplies; professional society statements on H1N; and business continuity and community planning resources.

Hale: We learned many valuable experiences from the first wave of the novel H1N1 virus and the challenges that it presented. Before and after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a level 6 pandemic, Novation began to educate its members on the proper ways to prepare for the pandemic.

• We advised against stockpiling supplies and resources and informed them as to why stockpiling was not in the best interest of the healthcare industry and supply chain as a whole.

• We directed members to the Novation Disaster and Pandemic calculators that assisted them with ordering the necessary product that would be necessary to last for four to six weeks. We presented a VHA-TV presentation on H1N1 for our members with key members of the Novation contracting team including contracting portfolio executives, myself and a representative from the facial protection manufacturing industry.

• Novation also quickly developed an H1N1 resource page in order to keep members informed of the latest information in the pandemic including information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

• We also updated members on the status of and how to obtain the H1N1 vaccine as it was produced and ready for distribution.

Related to protecting members against pricing, we have a facial protection supplier agreement which helps to insulate members from pricing issues. We worked closely with contracted manufacturers to monitor inventory levels and shortages. The contracting team also worked with the manufacturer to develop equivalent product choices in the event of back order situations. In fact, this process was done with the all suppliers of products that were needed during the pandemic such as gloves, gowns, sharps, IV fluids, hand hygiene, pharmaceuticals, etc and not only facial protection even though masks seemed to be the product category most at risk. This process insured Novation members would get the contracted price and not have to obtain product off contract at higher rates.

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