Reopen Your Dermatology Practice: Securing PPE

Ready to reopen your dermatology practice? (First things first, make sure you are staying up to date by visiting OSHA’s COVID-19 resource page.) One of the most significant limiting factors may be your ability to get personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE costs have dramatically increased worldwide in the wake of the novel coronavirus. Not only may your old supplier no longer be able to offer you a reasonable price, but they may not have a supply to sell you. As a result, you will likely need to make reevaluating your supply chain one of your top priorities, as you prepare to reopen your dermatology practice. Let’s take a closer look at steps you might consider.

Consider joining a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO)

Many large dermatology practices may have an entire team dedicated entirely to supply chain management. These teams help ensure a practice is getting the best price for their practice supplies, and they are getting access to practice supplies.  However, you do not need to be a large practice to get access to supplies at the best prices.  There are several group purchasing organizations (GPOs) a smaller practice may join to obtain access to discounts for practice supplies.   Indeed, many of the larger group practices are part of GPOs.  A GPO leverages the collective purchasing power of its members to get access to critical supplies and to obtain the best pricing.  Often, the member practice pays the GPO a fixed percentage of the purchase price, usually 3% or less, for their membership.  GPOs often specialize in specific product lines such as office supplies, medical supplies, medications, etc.  So, a smaller practice can be a member of several different GPOs.

Look at other suppliers and leverage competition

If you are not part of a GPO, you may need to revisit your current supplier relationships.  Your current supplier may no longer offer the best prices or have access to critical PPE. Many suppliers are forced to ration essential PPE to their customers.  So, you may need to add new suppliers to get access to an adequate supply of PPE.  Furthermore, with an economic market that is currently tight for everyone, leveraging competition to your advantage will help you keep your costs down and may convince your current suppliers to work with you on pricing to keep your business. Along those same lines, you may choose to continue working with an existing supplier for some items and find a new supplier for others. This is another place where having a dedicated team for supply chain management can work in your favor, as they can comparison shop, negotiate, and leverage competition to your advantage.

Network with other physicians and care providers

As you try to find new suppliers and obtain access to critical PPE, activate your professional network.  Many of your colleagues are grappling with the same issues, and they are eager to share ideas.  As you network, you may discover a new best practice or get a lead on a new source for gloves, masks, or other critical PPE.  As you uncover promising leads or best practices, circle back to your colleagues you have already talked to and share your new-found insight.  In the process of networking to source new suppliers or sources of PPE, you can also build and strengthen the connections with your professional network.  Later, these stronger connections may pay off in increased patient referrals.

Think creatively and problem solve

Creative problem solving with your professional network may yield a unique solution to solve for the PPE shortage.  Already, health care workers have found unique solutions to protect against COVID-19 in the face of PPE shortages.  Perhaps there are still other solutions to be found in the market place.  Of course, you will want to validate that any creative solution doesn’t run afoul of regulatory requirements.   Provided your supply chain management personnel are navigating the regulatory requirements, looking to other industries and thinking creatively can be a great way to find new solutions, lower rates, faster shipping times, etc.

Reevaluate processes and supply needs

Similarly, reevaluating your internal processes may help you reduce your PPE supply needs. Even small changes can help cut down on your PPE requirements. For instance, even as social distancing restrictions are lifted, consider utilizing telemedicine wherever possible.  Converting ten to thirty percent of your visits to telemedicine on an ongoing basis will have a dramatic impact on the PPE supplies required as your practice ramps back up.

Use your EMR platforms to streamline inventory and reordering

Another way to optimize your use of supplies may be better utilizing your EMR platform, especially as many of the best platforms offer tools to help you optimize your medical supply inventory. Many of these inventory management tools may help your dermatology practice efficiently order, manage, account for, dispense, and sell over the counter skin products, medications, biologics, and medical supplies.

Read more about reopening your dermatology practice here.

Need help navigating or establishing an effective supply chain strategy to reopen or ramp up your dermatology practice? Let one of our experts help.

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