A Three-Part Series: Part 2
Views of Health care Supply Chain’s Response to COVID-19
A Three-Part Series
Part 2: What went right?
COVID-19 has disrupted and challenged health care supply chain in unprecedented ways. In our first blog of this series, we explored the multiple factors that contributed to health care supply chain’s general inability to adapt and respond effectively to this crisis. Despite the complexity of this challenge, there are some areas in which the collective response excelled. This blog will focus on three areas in which much of health care supply chain thrived: (1) rapidly responding to these challenges with innovative technology, (2) new devices and techniques to expand the utilization / increase the conservation of existing products, and (3) increased collaboration in the private and public sectors.
One of the best examples of rapid innovation in response to COVID-19 challenges is the adoption of additive manufacturing (3D printing) for face masks & shields, nasal swabs, and other in-demand items. Responding to the shortage of PPE, well known technology and transportation leaders have pivoted to printing face masks and shields for front-line health care workers. Organizations have started 3D-printing nasal swabs to be used to test for COVID-19. 3D-printing technology is also being used to produce other items to help with COVID-19, such as hands-free door openers and respirator parts.1 We have seen innovation in the 3-D printing pipeline as well. One example is America Makes, a national accelerator for 3D printing that has partnered with the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the National Institutes of Health to build a repository where manufacturers can upload their 3D-printable designs. The designs are reviewed and then fast-tracked to the NIH 3D Print Exchange, which is an open source site for sharing design. This has allowed individuals and small-batch manufacturers to start producing protective face shields with 3-D printing also.2
EXPANDING UTILIZATION / INCREASING CONSERVATION
In addition to finding new methods of producing essential products, we have seen organizations find alternative ways to use existing products. For instance, in response to the ventilator shortage, Prisma Health has collaborated with Ethicon Inc., part of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, to make and distribute a ventilator expansion device, which allows a single ventilator to be used for two patients for temporary ventilatory support.3 3-D printing will be used to manufacture the ventilator expansion splitter. In response to the shortage of PPE, many organizations have employed sterilization techniques to re-use PPE using UV light or a 3-hour ozone disinfection.4 However, evidence of the ability of these techniques to eliminate the virus and maintain PPE effectiveness is still under review. Some health systems developed rigorous guidelines to match the appropriate level of PPE protection with the anticipated risk of each individual encounter.5 These efforts allowed them to stretch their inventories as far as possible without sacrificing quality and protection.
COLLABORATION AMONG MANUFACTURERS
Another positive response to COVID-19 can be seen in the level of increased collaboration in the public and private sectors. For example, HP is working with several government agencies all over the world to enable a synchronized and effective approach for 3-D printing PPE, nasal swabs, hands-free door openers and respirator parts.6 Budmen Industries, a small 3D-printing company in New York, has been sharing a template for printing face shields with other companies.7
Unique strategies have also been deployed by Ford Motor Company collaborating with Beaumont Health System to design and manufacture reusable gowns from material used to make airbags. Ford has also designed and started producing purifying respirators and face masks. In addition, Ford is providing manufacturing expertise to help scientific instrument provider Thermo Fisher Scientific quickly expand production of COVID-19 testing kits.8 Another notable effort is the collaboration among the US Department of Health and Human Services, General Motors, and Ventec Life Systems in an effort to produce and deliver 30,000 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August.9
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates that many companies are not fully aware of the vulnerability of their supply chain relationships to global disruption. Despite this, it is undeniable that many organizations have responded rapidly with innovation and collaboration and have successfully deployed unique solutions to navigate through the disruption to health care supply chain. As the world pivots to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19, there is much optimism around collaborative efforts to continue developing inspired solutions.
1 2 Avery Hartmans, “Tech companies like Apple and Blue Origin and universities like Duke…”, Business Insider, April 7, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/face-shields-coronavirus-medical-workers-apple-blue-origin-harvard-ford-2020-4
3 Palmetto Health, “Prisma Health collaborating with Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson to manufacture…”, April 6, 2020, https://www.palmettohealth.org/patients-guests/news/vesper-collaboration-ethicon-johnson-johnson
4 5 Evan M. Benjamin, et al., “Recommendations for PPE Conservation: Restrict, Reduce, Re-Use”, Institute for Healthcare Improvement”, March 24, 2020,
6 Rishi Iyengar, “Can 3D printing plug the coronavirus equipment gap?”, April 17, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/tech/coronavirus-medical-equipment-3d-printing/index.html
7 Vige Barrie, “Hamilton’s 3D Printers Engaged in Fight against COVID-19”, April 20, 2020, https://www.hamilton.edu/news/story/covid19-face-shields-coronavirus-3d-printers
8 Brandon Champion, “Ford making reusable hospital gowns from airbag materials as..”, MLive, April 14, 2020, https://www.mlive.com/news/2020/04/ford-making-reusable-hospital-gowns-from-airbag-materials-as-efforts-against-coronavirus-expand.html
9 Vanessa Yurkevich and Peter Valdes-Dapena, “GM prepares to ship first round of ventilators”, CNN, April 14, 2020 https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/14/cars/gm-ventilators-ventec-coronavirus/index.html