Distributors Can Play Key Role For Community Emergency Preparedness

February 2019

HIDA Government Affairs Update

By Linda Rouse O'Neill
Vice President, Government Affairs

When is the last time you had a conversation with your customers about emergency preparedness? Healthcare facilities as well as state and local preparedness organizations must meet federal preparedness requirements. Additionally, federal programs provide funding to these entities for preparedness planning. Specifically, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has regulations on preparedness that providers must comply with in order to be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid payments. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has a program that supports preparedness coalitions. While both providers and community groups have been taking steps to enhance preparedness, not many have had conversations with distributors.

I recently discussed the importance of collaborating with the healthcare supply chain at the National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference. The audience included hospital and nursing home staff with preparedness planning responsibility, state and local public health officials, as well as local/community preparedness coalition leaders. However, only a handful of attendees knew who the primary distributor was for the large facilities in their community. Additionally, most of them were unaware of what their distributor partners could do for them. This is an opportunity to bridge a gap in preparedness efforts. 

HIDA has numerous partnerships on preparedness at the federal level and has secured supply chain language in the preparedness bill that will reauthorize federal programs. Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now requires providers to have emergency preparedness plans in order to be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid payments.  

This provides distributors an opportunity to learn who at the local level has community coalition responsibility and start a conversation. In my presentation, I highlighted the following, but I’m sure there is more!

Develop alternate communication and delivery plans. Natural disasters may leave main roads unusable or restricted to emergency vehicles. Similarly, emergency events could shut down power or cellular service. By providing emergency or alternate contacts, and finding alternative delivery routes, you can ensure your customers can receive information and needed supplies during a crisis. Also, make sure you understand their evacuation plan, so supplies can still be delivered.

Pre-identify and pre-agree on substitutions. During crises, providers will often panic-order certain goods. By working with your customer to identify substitutes for the most commonly-needed item, you can give them more flexibility during a crisis, and avoid exacerbating shortages.

Maintain a “cushion” of products for customers. Similar to the previous example, some distributors will maintain a dedicated stockpile of supplies for their customers, in exchange for a fee. Providers that pay for this service know their suppliers will be able to supply goods that would otherwise be harder to obtain during a disaster.

Use purchasing data to predict future needs. During a crisis, many different things can go wrong, and providers may not be able to communicate what they need from their distributors. To help with this, some distributors look at their customers’ purchasing data and make predictions about what they need. That way, during an emergency, they can be prepared to help their customers, even if communications break down.

If you would like to learn more about HIDA’s efforts, or have questions about what providers need to do to comply with new regulations, please contact me at: HIDAGovAffairs@HIDA.org

From http://www.repertoiremag.com/distributors-can-play-key-role-for-community-emergency-preparedness.html