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Building a Better Network: Four Ways to Make Critical Connections Your Facility Could Rely on During a Medical Supply Shortage

Author: Laura Kwinn Wolf, Ph.D., Director, ASPR Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Michael Eltringham, Stakeholder Engagement Analyst, ASPR Critical Infrastructure Protection Program Contract Support
Published Date: 6/13/2019 8:26:00 AM
Category: Hospital Preparedness; Exercises & Trainings; Response & Recovery; Public Health Preparedness;

When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, one unexpected challenge faced by the Healthcare and Public Health (HPH) Sector was maintaining production of medical gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and argon on the island of Puerto Rico. The power needs for such an operation exceeded available generators; so, for the duration of electricity outages in the area, novel plans had to be devised for the challenging transport and distribution of products across the island.

Partners from the gas manufacturers, healthcare facilities, and the federal and territorial government closely coordinated to make decisions that would ensure patients in hospitals, oxygen-dependent patients in their homes, and manufacturers of critical medical devices, received the gases they needed. By working together, the government and private sector identified and communicated issues. As a result, disruptions of service were prevented.

If you or your facility are made aware of a drug or medical product shortage through manufacturers, distributors, the FDA, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, or CIP’s supply chain newsletter, who do you call for help? Where can you find additional guidance on how to manage the situation?

Drug and medical supply shortages can happen at any time, and they can occur with very little warning due to disasters. Take some time during steady state to identify federal and private sector points of contact and build relationships you can rely on in an emergency. Make sure that these four entities are part of your network:

  • Your Local Health Care Coalition (HCC): If critical supplies are not available, working with other hospitals or healthcare providers in your area can help. HCCs can assist with providing situational awareness, a venue for discussing challenging issues related to medical supply shortages, and a mechanism for establishing clear, consistent communications. There are more than 31,000 HCC members across the country. HCCs are groups made up of healthcare and response entities – such as hospitals, EMS providers, emergency management organizations, public health agencies, and more – working in a defined geographic location to prepare for and respond to disasters and public health emergencies. To find out more about your local HCC, reach out to your local HCC point of contact.

  • The Healthcare and Public Health (HPH) Partnership: The HPH Partnership, managed by ASPR’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection, provides a venue for public and private sector collaboration to share threat information, disseminate and discuss best practices, and assess and manage risks to the sector. The HPH Partnership includes subject matter experts in the private sector and at federal, state, and local agencies. During the response to a large-scale emergency, ASPR CIP helps partners gain a better understanding of the evolving situation, and cross sector representatives often provide updates. To get involved or learn more, contact us at CIP@hhs.gov. To stay up-to-date, join the CIP healthcare supply chain mailing list.

  • ASPR TRACIE: Before you are faced with a supply chain shortage – whether it is caused by widespread market conditions or a disaster that has struck your hospital - make sure that you have a plan to protect patient health. As you develop your plan, you can reach out to the experts at ASPR TRACIE for technical advice or to collaborate with your colleagues through their information exchange. In Fall 2019, additional supply chain resources for healthcare coalitions and entities will be made available.

  • FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC): During disaster response operations, the NBEOC shares information related to public and private stakeholder concerns. The NBEOC sets up an online dashboard and holds daily conference calls during response to a disaster. Drug and supply shortages are covered along with more detailed information on potential impacts to all 16 critical infrastructure sectors than the coverage provided on HPH Sector Partnership calls. The NBEOC provides detailed updates on interdependent lifeline sectors such as transportation, communication, water, and power outages and restoration.

Tap into these existing resources for building partnerships before a major shortage critically impacts your facility. Having the right partner in place can be the difference between scrambling to respond and managing shortages successfully.

The ‘Anticipating and Managing the Challenges Associated with Supply Shortages’ blog series is designed to highlight actions that healthcare organizations can take to protect patient health in the event of a supply shortage. To learn more, check out the first two posts in this series: ‘Four Ways to Plan to Protect Patient Health in a Medical Supply Shortage’ and ‘Exhaustion in the ED and Beyond: Managing Supply Shortages and Staff Fatigue in Healthcare Facilities’. The next post in this series will look at recommendations and resources for building partnerships. Stay up to date as new blog posts are published by following us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.


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