Rising To The COVID-19 Challenge
COVID-19 thrust the healthcare supply chain into the national spotlight, day after day. The pandemic’s challenges created a need for creative thinking and outside-the-box solutions. Distributors have been there to provide those solutions — every step of the way. Throughout this pandemic, America’s healthcare distributors served as trusted partners — using their existing infrastructure to reliably deliver essential medical supplies to healthcare providers in need. HIDA spoke with a few members on the front lines about getting much-needed supplies to care settings around the country. Here are some of their reflections on the pandemic’s effect on the industry.
Gina Marchese, EVP, Marketing & Sales Operations
Concordance Healthcare Solutions
HIDA Board Chair
“The value of distribution has never been more apparent and essential than it’s been this past year.”
What happens to our country, happens to healthcare and in turn, affects our industry. The pandemic experience has provided a lot of insights and knowledge that will better position the supply chain for the future. We’ve learned that neither the government nor the private sector can deal with any crisis of this magnitude on their own. A collaborative effort is essential. We’ve also learned that government leaders need to understand the knowledge, infrastructure, and agility distributors and the supply chain are able to deliver in difficult circumstances.
The value of distribution has never been more apparent and essential than it’s been this past year. Our message to our healthcare providers, manufacturers, and policymakers needs to be heard in new ways and in new places. Not just as another voice, but as thought leaders with specialized expertise and experience to contribute to establishing sound policies. As distributors, we serve as a trusted advisor and will continue to positively impact the lives of our employees, our customers, and our communities.
Michael Dubose, President, Healthcare Market Division
Fisher Healthcare, a division of ThermoFisher Scientific
HIDA Board Chair-Elect
“Enabling our customers to continue and broaden operations by providing a supply of quality products is our top priority.”
We have focused on supply chain resiliency by mobilizing a company-wide task force to address the outbreak and ensure a coordinated response across our businesses.
We continue to work with government agencies and researchers globally to ensure priority access to instruments, consumables, safety supplies and other products to support the response, particularly in the analysis of the virus, vaccine development, storage and administration as well as personal protection. This includes carefully managing our inventory, production and supply chains. To help provide product options, supply and quality, we continue to look at alternate sources that are leveraging new technologies and raw material options.
We are diversifying our global sourcing capabilities and are working with manufacturers around the world to provide the most robust selection of products with the highest quality standards.
Enabling our customers to continue and broaden operations by providing a supply of quality products is our top priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the value and need for distribution organizations who can act as true partners. When our customers can rely on our supply chain, it allows them to focus on their core areas like research and development, patient testing, vaccine storage and administration and patient care.
Jim Boyle, EVP, Sales
“Among the greatest achievements in 2020 was the new level of collaboration and communications transparency between providers and suppliers.”
The understanding of the supply chain’s role in healthcare became clear in 2020. Along with the deeper knowledge that it can’t be taken for granted also came the need for suppliers to quickly pivot in any circumstance. While we generally keep on hand more inventory than the industry norms, we had to quickly add further in early 2020 as COVID began impacting supply chains. Concurrently, we began expanding our own manufacturing to address needs like hand sanitizer, face masks, and isolation gowns.
The greatest achievement in 2020 was the new level of collaboration and communications transparency between providers and suppliers. The acceleration of partnerships between providers and suppliers, the regular communication of what was needed and what could be supplied, the insight into supply chain across both distribution and healthcare providers served to make us all stronger. That resilience and transparency has led not only to stronger relationships but also new ones. The key is to think of the overall supply chain as one integrated connected piece of healthcare.
We expect supply chain and providers will continue the level of investment and collaboration we’ve seen to make healthcare run better in the future.
Lynn Patterson, CEO
Gericare Medical Supply
“The biggest wins from the past year are growth that we experienced as a company that only occurs during crisis situations when none of the old ways work, and you’re forced to think creatively.”
The extent and severity of the pandemic caught us by surprise, but not the pandemic itself. We knew it was coming and started planning. While the past 12 months have been mostly marked by stress, concern for our employees and our customers, and finding ways to fund incredibly expensive shipments of inventory, there have also been opportunities for incredible growth.
Everyone had to learn to think outside of the box. Gericare worked with our existing vendors and manufacturers, but opened up dialogue with new partners. For the first time in Gericare’s 35 years we ordered items by the container and our warehouse manager and his team reconfigured spaces, added off-site space, and found ways to handle multiple containers of inventory.
The biggest wins from the past year are growth that we experienced as a company that only occurs during crisis situations when none of the old ways work, and you’re forced to think creatively. The other big win is the Gericare team grew closer as we worked through this and we grew closer to our customers and to our manufacturers and vendors. We became a single unit working toward the same goal.
Mark Litton, President
“Supplier diversification, local distribution, and a new level of transparency from distributors are all vital toward bolstering supply chains.”
My biggest takeaway from 2020 was the value of being mission driven. In an environment where we were being contacted by corporations and foreign governments all trying to purchase PPE, sticking to our mission of solving Chicago’s healthcare supply chain challenges and blocking out everything else allowed us to hone in precisely on where we could provide the most value.
With the pandemic winding down, there has been a clear focus to strengthen supply chains moving forward. Supplier diversification, local distribution, and a new level of transparency from distributors are all vital toward bolstering supply chains.
I believe that it should be continually highlighted that from the distributor standpoint, we are incentivized to step up to the call for increased demand and take care of the purchasing needs of our healthcare partners. It should never leave our purview that all of the healthcare workers who responded to the call are true heroes. I am in constant amazement by those individuals who risked their lives day in and day out at a time when we did not even know if it was safe to open our front door.
Mark Zacur, EVP, Chief Commercial Officer
Owens & Minor
“2020 was certainly a year of challenges for the healthcare distribution industry, but it was also a year of incredible resilience and innovation.”
2020 was certainly a year of challenges for the healthcare distribution industry, but it was also a year of incredible resilience and innovation. Owens & Minor rose to the occasion and went above and beyond in our support of our customers in the fight against COVID-19. Our considerable Americas-based manufacturing footprint and vertically integrated supply chain helped us keep supply of essential product strong for our healthcare customers when they needed it most.
Everyone who works in healthcare is ultimately here to help patients — and that’s what Owens & Minor was able to do by helping to support safety and business continuity for our customers as they delivered critical care throughout the pandemic. Following a year of unprecedented circumstances, I’m excited and energized to continue our laser-focus on serving our healthcare customers in an ever-changing industry landscape.
Alex Caldwell, VP, Sales & Marketing
“I think we all learned what an important role we all play in our relationship with our medical communities.”
Our value became noticed when the medical community needed an established resource to become their sourcing partner. We worked day, night, and weekends securing products that were of the best quality, best price point, and of course available. We learned very quickly how to pivot our services and offer storage opportunities to hospitals that needed additional space to store their supplies and have them delivered within 24 hours to their requested location. It became very clear that we were a significant resource in the supply chain helping hospitals that we had not worked with in the past.
It’s my belief that hospitals will no longer align with just one distribution partner, they will work with a strong secondary back up supplier for their future needs. Customers will have a med/surge supply area with the necessary items for the “next” pandemic. I don’t think any hospital will be caught again without the redundancy of inventory. I think we all learned what an important role we all play in our relationship with our medical communities. Large or small, each system needs to have a reliable team that will work with them to explore each and every obstacle they may be faced with.
This article appears in the May-June 2021 issue of HIDA’s bimonthly member magazine, Healthcare Distribution & Supply Chain™.