Are you prepared for the long haul with your PPE needs? Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the U.S., it has intensified the focus on infection control protocols in our nation’s nursing home facilities and other healthcare sectors. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) skyrocketed and the world’s supply chain was stretched to its limits to keep up with the need for these vital products. Many long-term care providers experienced difficulty obtaining affordably-priced, quality medical products that were available for timely delivery. Some even fell prey to fraudsters and substandard supplies.
The Omicron variant and concerns about new strains to come may continue to complicate global supplies of PPE and create worry for nursing homes. The Compliance Store’s medical supply partner, Supply360, has provided for PPE needs and other medical products to nursing homes for 30 years. The company has seen a significant uptick in demand and educates facilities on how to make sure their needs are covered.
“To ensure they have the PPE to protect their residents and staff, facilities need to develop astute vendor relationships,” said Craig Miller, Supply360 vice president. “They need to evaluate whether they just have a supplier or whether they have a partner.”
Do you have a partner for your PPE needs?
Medical supply distributors are the vital connection between healthcare manufacturers and providers. They support the medical supply chain infrastructure that enables providers to focus on delivering care. When the pandemic and its related challenges struck, medical supply distributors were invaluable partners in long-term care facilities finding solutions for safely continuing their operations. Unfortunately, during this time, there was also a surge in opportunistic medical supply brokers. It is estimated that tens of thousands of new PPE broker businesses were started in 2020 alone.
“Brokers are not the same as medical supply distributors. This emerging broker market is also not part of the medical product supply chain,” Miller said. “Some of these businesses have no experience working with healthcare.”
Unfortunately, some of these brokers also took advantage of buyers. Some sold inferior products, price gouged or simply scammed their customers. For example, one broker recently pled guilty to allegedly orchestrating a $2 million PPE scheme involving the purchase and delivery of medical gowns that were never fulfilled.
Costly compliance challenges
Substandard products or unfulfilled orders can impact a facility’s survey and bottom line. In 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services imposed more than $10 million in fines on nursing homes for non-compliance with infection control requirements. The average penalty was $55,000. Many of these citations were directly related to PPE needs. The most common type of non-compliance cited was improper use of PPE. Some of the deficiencies noted include staff not wearing PPE or wearing improper PPE, lack of PPE and failure to change contaminated PPE.
“To avoid costly pitfalls, it is important to know the difference between working with a broker and a qualified medical supply distributor,” Miller said. “An experienced distributor offers more agile capabilities that are helpful during shortages.”
- May not have experience in healthcare supplies or an established network of manufacturers
- Prices may be one-time deals for the highest price, supply and demand-based
- Product manufacturers may not be vetted for safety and quality
- No product delivery or condition guarantees
- Operate under long-term contracts with factories and healthcare facilities
- Have expertise in identifying quality and efficacy in products
- Stick to agreed-upon pricing based on long-term contracts even as demand increases
- Jump into action to rush products where they are needed
- Purchase and deliver verified safe, FDA-approved products from the factory to the doorstep of healthcare providers
Whether you choose to work with a broker, medical supply distributor or a combination of both, Miller said it is important to ensure the services and products always match your needs. It is good practice for suppliers to work with you to determine and communicate supply availability, identify appropriate product substitutions, vet manufacturers, source quality products, communicate expected delivery dates.
“Above all, your supplier should address and rectify any supply or service errors in a timely manner,” Miller said. “Lives depend on the work you do and your supplier should respect that.” To learn more about Supply360 call 866-710-7626 or go www.mysupply360.com. For a PPE compliance resource from The Compliance Store, click here.