The Power Of Advocacy

Healthcare distributors and manufacturers successfully convey the benefits of a healthy supply chain to lawmakers and hill aides during HIDA’s Washington Summit

More than 60 HIDA members and their manufacturer partners convened on Capitol Hill during a climate of uncertainty regarding legislation and policy on tariffs and the medical device tax, but used the opportunity to educate lawmakers and aides about the key role of the medical supply chain in delivering patient care.

The group also thanked hill staff for their efforts in helping get a long-stalled emergency preparedness bill passed by Congress just the week prior to their visit. “Medical supply distribution plays a vital role in emergency preparedness and response. Collaboration between the private and public sectors is crucial to ensure supply continuity during a public health crisis or emergency response situation,”

Concordance CEO Lisa Hohman told lawmakers and their staff during hill office visits. “Distributors carry critical personal protective equipment and surgical and diagnostic supplies, and have been closely partnering with the Strategic National Stockpile and ASPR to help ensure excellent coordination for future events.”

Hill staff were very receptive to concerns of both providers and distributors, agreed Christine Arme with 3M Health Care and Michael Einhorn with Dealmed/Park Surgical. “The power of face-to-face meetings and the opportunity to educate our nation’s thought-leaders and decision-makers on issues facing the industry is invaluable,” Arme said.

Louisiana Senator Praises Distributors For Emergency Preparedness Work

During a day of educational sessions at the summit, gastroenterologist and Sen. Bill Cassidy MD (R-LA), a physician who helped set up an emergency clinic in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thanked summit attendees for distributors’ role in disaster preparedness, adding: “I appreciate your challenges.” He noted that Louisiana “totally changed what we do” in terms of emergency preparedness by focusing more keenly on the supply chain after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that decimated parts of the state.

HELP Committee Health Policy Directors Grace Graham with the majority staff and Nick Bath with the minority outlined committee priorities for the year. The staffers for the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions panel agreed that they have found bipartisan ground on issues. Distributors and providers may see movement on drug costs and policies, the Older Americans Act, poison control, and “surprise billing.” Both Graham and Bath noted that their bosses Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have an excellent and productive working relationship. “When other [lawmakers] are fighting in other places on other issues, that’s when the big bipartisan bills happen,” Bath said.

Chiefs of staff shared their political and policy perspectives during an interactive panel discussion for tips on how to make a point effectively as a non-lobbyist. Their advice:

  • Tie your issue to the lawmaker’s district or state
  • Explain your issue and be flexible
  • Ask questions to gauge the aide or lawmaker’s level of knowledge on the issue
  • Know what your ask is – and it’s OK not to want anything but to just provide education
  • Be direct and concise

FDA Director Encourages Collaboration To Solve Supply Chain Challenges

“We want to work together with HIDA and with all of you to move the device shortages space forward,” FDA Director of Emergency Preparedness/Operations and Medical Countermeasures Julia Marders, MS, RN, told Washington Summit attendees. “We recognize that the importance of preparedness and prevention of shortages means working together.”

Marders thanked medical supply distributors for their preparedness knowledge and guidance to help navigate planning for future hurricane seasons. The FDA “really recognized” that manufacturers and distributors have made a concerted effort to be even more prepared for hurricane seasons, she said. Marders commended the industry for its impressive contingency plans “whether it involved moving manufacturing to another plant outside of the U.S. or moving product outside of the impact zone prior to the storm hitting.” She added that preparations such as generators and adequate fuel supply along with proactive strategies for returning to impact zones and getting product moving again after a storm were also keys to success.

She also told attendees that the FDA would like to see device shortages legislation similar to rules governing the pharmaceutical industry requiring drug manufacturers to notify the agency of an actual shortage situation. “We really recognize the importance of being notified ahead of time – right now we rely on voluntary information from manufacturers and that puts us in a pickle when it comes to being prepared.”

Executive Briefing | September/October 2019