May 14, 2020

Our take: Can online 'swap meets' fill hospitals' needs for PPE?

Daily Briefing

    As hospitals and health systems work to mitigate supply chain gaps amid Covid-19, some are taking a page from internet dating and going to online "matchmaking" sites to swap needed supplies.  

    The global demand for certain medications and medical supplies, such as gloves, masks, and other personal protective equipment has soared amid the Covid-19 pandemic—and manufacturers have struggled to keep pace.

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    Hospitals turn to online swap meets

    As a result, hospitals and health systems are taking unique approaches to shore up their supplies.

    For instance, last month the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington realized it needed additional face shields, but had a surplus of hand sanitizer from a local crowdsourcing effort. Meanwhile, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was in need of hand sanitizer but had extra face shields. 

    Both hospitals posted descriptions of their supply needs and surpluses on a new online trading platform called The Exchange at Resilinc, The Associated Press reports. The platform was created in a joint effort by Stanford Health Care, consulting firm Premier, and logistics software company Resilinc to match hospitals with surpluses of certain items with those in need.

    For the two New England hospitals, the platform was a success. The service matched the two hospitals, enabling them to trade 500 items of both hand sanitizer and face shields. 

    Charlie Miceli, head of supply chain at University of Vermont Medical Center, said of the platform, "It gives you some breathing room so you can go track down more supply."

    According to the Associated Press, more than 900 hospitals, as well as thousands of surgery centers, nursing homes, and other facilities signed up for The Exchange at Resilinc within the platform's first two weeks of launching. The platform has facilitated a dozen trades involving thousands of items, according to the Associated Press

    Resilinc CEO Bindiya Vikal said N95 masks are the top requested item, but the site also facilitates loans for medicines and medical equipment, such as ventilators and patient beds.

    But The Exchange at Resilinc is far from the only internet swap meet for hospitals available today. Others, according to the Associated Press, include a site run by Vizient, as well as more tailored services like Cohealo, which helps hospitals temporarily loan medical equipment like ventilators, and Helping Hospitals, which seeks to match doctors and other medical workers whose regular jobs have been disrupted with hospitals experiencing flare ups.

    "There's a lot of enthusiasm for this," Michelle Hood, COO of the American Hospital Association, said. "It's sure made a difference to those who got supplies when they really needed them" (Johnson, Associated Press, 5/12; Moreno, The Hill, 5/12).

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