In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the greatest challenges for hospitals was securing adequate supplies of PPE, such as masks and gloves, and sanitizing equipment. While supply chain management is one of the WHO’s nine key components of an Emergency Action Plan, COVID-19 presented a challenge unlike any living healthcare leaders had ever seen. The uncertainty and urgency of the pandemic crippled even the best of supply chains. As a result, many providers faced PPE shortages, and frontline workers were forced to reuse supplies.

As health experts warn of a second wave of COVID-19 in the coming months, it’s crucial for hospitals to improve their supply chain management and ensure PPE is readily attainable. Fortunately, the last few months have offered a crash course in supply chain management during a pandemic. Let’s take a look at what some hospitals have learned, and how they’re improving their supply chains in preparation for the second wave of COVID-19.

Increasing Supplies on Hand

New Jersey has been one of the hardest hit states in the U.S. At the time of this writing, the state has seen nearly 175,000 cases and more than 13,500 deaths. Hospitals in the state are determined to provide better treatment and minimize the number of deaths during the second wave of the pandemic. While a large part of this strategy involves treating more patients at home to minimize their risk of exposure, ensuring adequate stock of PPE and cleaning supplies is also paramount.

Stockpiling PPE

Delays in testing due to increased testing volume mean even more PPE is used as staff deal with patients with unknown COVID-19 status. Atlantic Health, a system comprised of six hospitals in the state, plans on stocking enough PPE for a 90-day supply at a burn rate 20 percent higher than the worst day they’ve seen since the pandemic started. This means allotting more than 25 masks for each staff member coming in contact with COVID-19 patients daily. Elsewhere in the state, Holy Name Medical Center is going even further, striving to have a year’s worth of supplies on hand; a lesson learned from being at the epicenter of the pandemic when it first struck.

Cleaning Supplies and Treatment Stores

PPE isn’t the only supply hospitals are stocking up on. According to Atlantic Health chief financial and administrative officer Kevin Lenahan, “There’s a big shortage of disinfectant wipes.” Lenahan also said that hand sanitizer refills are difficult to obtain. These supplies are just as important as PPE, and so are drugs for various treatments. New Jersey State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said her office reviews the state’s hospitals preparedness every morning, including the drug inventory of both hospital and state stockpiles. Of particular importance is the supply of remdesevir, the drug shown to aid in COVID-19 treatment.

Technology in Supply Chain Management

While increasing supplies on-hand is an essential strategy for successful supply chain management during the pandemic, it’s just as important to have the right technology in place, as well as a strategy for maximizing the benefits of that technology. Let’s take a look at some of the tech-based tools and strategies that can help improve your supply chain management initiatives.

Cloud ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)

Enterprise Resource Planning software, or ERP, connects the different areas of a business, such as accounting, supply chain, and manufacturing, together into a single platform. Tying all these disparate divisions into one system streamlines and consolidates workflows. Cloud ERP’s, like Acumatica, empower remote teams by providing access to essential data anywhere there’s an internet connection. This helps ensure business continuity in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Having this crucial data readily available helps teams take action in a timely matter, whether it be determining when to reorder supplies, or predicting when capacity will be reached.

“We have a workforce hungry for KPIs and metrics and Acumatica provides our employees and upper management with actionable data at their fingertips.”

– Rebecca Ogle, CFO, Safety Management Group

Actionable Analytics

While an ERP provides a wealth of data across various departments, that data is no good if no one is acting upon it. MedStar Health, a 10-hospital health system serving Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. is doing just that. In a recent Becker’s Hospital Review webinar, MedStar Health’s VP of System Supply Chain, Jim Churchman discussed how the health system addressed the challenge of sourcing PPE and other supplies outside of their traditional supply chains while adhering to emerging clinical guidelines.

“We’re bringing technological tools to the forefront and using real-time analytics to support our physicians and clinical teamsThis has helped strengthen our clinical partnerships by making sure [clinicians] have what they need when they’re at the patient’s bedside.”

– Jim Churchman, Vice President of System Supply Chain, MedStar Health

Order management software like iOrder has integrated, live dashboards for monitoring ambulatory order status and problem identification. This solution eliminates the need to create and distribute tedious reports.

Information Management Platform

Another way of taking advantage of technology in supply chain management is building an information management platform. An information management platform ties together the many different systems and applications an organization uses, such as its ERP, order management solution, vendor portal, and more. In a July 7th HIMSS webinar, David Marcelletti, Vice Chair of Supply Chain Management for Mayo Clinic, talked about how the health system integrated its supply chain and analytics during COVID-19. Marcelletti’s team recognized that advanced analytics were key to supply chain management.

In order to push data from the clinic’s various systems into a pipeline for analytics, Mayo Clinic transformed its supply chain systems into its own information management platform. According to Marcelletti, data from Mayo Clinic’s various supply chain systems was sent to one of four pillars that make up the information management platform: Data Management, Dynamic Analytics, Process Automation, and Process Integration. Supply chain analysts across the health system’s 22 hospitals use the same tools and methodology to ensure consistency and shape a digital standard. For Marcelletti, the key to surviving and thriving in the next 3 to 5 years is digitally-enabled processes from end-to-end.

“If you want to thrive, you’ve got to move the needle on your digital platform. Orchestrating things to work seamlessly together is the key.”

– David Marcelletti, Vice Chair of Supply Chain Management, Mayo Clinic

Supply Chain Management is Key to Combating COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. In fact, a second wave is on the horizon. By adhering to lessons learned during the first wave, however, we can be better prepared for the next. One of the biggest lessons learned thus far during the pandemic is that supply chain management is critical for protecting hospital staff and caring for patients. As discussed in this blog, elements of a successful supply chain management initiative include:

  • Stockpiling PPE, cleaning supplies, and medications
  • Implementing a reliable and flexible ERP system
  • Acting on analytics
  • Incorporating an information management platform

For more tips on successful supply chain management and to see where your organizations stands, check out the HIMSS Analytics Clinically Integrated Supply Outcomes Model (CISOM). At iPro, we provide supply chain solutions, such as Acumatica cloud ERP, which uses real-time information to control costs across the entire supply and distribution chain. Our order management solution, iOrder, can interface with your information systems to provide accurate, supplemental billing information to shorten the revenue cycle of your ambulatory orders.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help with your ERP or order management needs, contact us today.