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Analysis

Coronavirus Pushes Hospitals To Share Information About 868彩票邀请码 Of Protective Gear

By Kaiser Health News  
   March 13, 2020

Some hospitals have a surplus of the protective equipment and some not enough. The CDC is working on a system that would track the inventory across the nation.

This article was first published on Friday, March 13, 2020 in .

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Masks, gloves and other equipment are crucial as health care workers face the COVID-19 outbreak. There?is868彩票邀请码 a strategic national stockpile that the U.S. government controls — but no one knows what, beyond that stockpile, is available in the private sector.

Some hospitals have a surplus of the protective equipment and some not enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on a system that would track the inventory across the U.S.

The big hurdle isn't the technology. The issue is getting hospitals comfortable sharing information about their preparedness — information that, until now, they have considered confidential.

868彩票邀请码Protective masks have become a hot commodity, even within hospitals. At Nashville General Hospital, for example, employees several weeks ago were casually approaching supply chain management director Tom Cooper and asking if they could have a box for personal use.

Cooper told them the masks were available only for "clinicians as needed, for their job duties."

And Cooper said he's feeling more protective of the supply his hospital has on hand — especially N95 respirators. General Hospital's distributor, Medline, already 868彩票邀请码 of the respirators. Cooper said he can't get any more than his usual monthly allotment, even if he could afford it.

"Right now, we're OK," he said. "But next month, what could happen?"

'Panic Purchasing'

The CDC has tried to avoid such scarcity and the costs associated with shortages. Often, there's plenty of disposable protective gear to go around, but it's not always in the right places ahead of pandemics.

"It can result in 'panic purchasing,'" said , a nurse epidemiologist with the CDC. "This is where facilities buy as much as possible, just to be on the safe side."

Right now, public health agencies know only what's in government stockpiles of protective gear. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress in recent weeks that the government has ?even though 300 million may be needed. (The few U.S. companies manufacturing masks say demand in recent weeks has far?, though they are ramping up.)

The nation's 6,000 hospitals have been more of a black box — now and in earlier epidemics. In past outbreaks — of H1N1 influenza, for example — some hospitals resorted to informal supply swaps on a street corner, according to project managers with the Center for Medical Interoperability, a Nashville-based nonprofit.

Last year, before COVID-19 emerged, the center was awarded a $3 million contract with the CDC to build a system that calls for hospitals to submit information about their real-time inventory. The information typically can be pulled directly from an institution's electronic medical record system. Using that accumulated data, the CDC should be able to use a digital dashboard to easily identify facilities with the greatest need.

"It could also, potentially, provide a tool for hospitals to request personal protective equipment from state or local health departments, stockpiles or even other hospitals that might have excess," Casey said. "We do see this as a potential opportunity for resource sharing and having those kinds of discussions."

Competitive Advantage

But the prospect of sharing supplies is where the business of health care makes cooperation hard even in a crisis, said . She's the chief information officer at Nashville General, one of the pilot sites for the CDC-sponsored project.

"It's difficult and scary sometimes to share data and equipment, especially with your competitors," Thomas said, "because you want to have the advantage."

Nashville General is the smallest of the pilot sites, which include Northwestern Memorial in Chicago and Nashville-based Community Health Systems, a for-profit chain of nearly 100 hospitals around the U.S.

868彩票邀请码Thomas acknowledged it's easier for her taxpayer-funded hospital to grant access to its inventory system because it doesn't have the buying power to stockpile equipment.

"That's never going to be our problem," she said. "We want the shared information because we're going to have just enough."

And when they run out, she'd like to know where to turn to get more.

A Theoretical Threat Becomes Real

The Center for Medical Interoperability started its work quietly, a few months before COVID-19 emerged. But the project managers have noticed a greater willingness to participate among major health systems now that a theoretical threat has become very real.

868彩票邀请码"We know … that their supply chains are under strain right now because these products, they come out of China," said Tommy Ragsdale, the center's director of strategy.

China needs the disposable equipment that is manufactured there for its own use. And only a handful of companies in the U.S. still make the protective gear domestically. One??for more than a billion masks.

"It has definitely created different discussions at the hospital and health system level than we were having in October or November," Ragsdale said.

The CDC has pumped an additional $600,000 into the data-sharing project, with an accelerated go-live date in May, Ragsdale said. The center plans to hold a webinar on April 1 for additional hospitals interested in participating in later phases.

At this point, the CDC said, there's no mandate for hospitals to participate. But Ragsdale said he hopes they will see the benefit: "This is clearly for the greater good."

This story is part of a partnership that includes , and Kaiser Health News.

Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio: bfarmer@wpln.org,

“We do see this as a potential opportunity for resource sharing and having those kinds of discussions.”

is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

868彩票邀请码The issue is getting hospitals comfortable sharing information about their preparedness — information that, until now, they have considered confidential.

868彩票邀请码Often, there's plenty of disposable protective gear to go around, but it's not always in the right places ahead of pandemics.

868彩票邀请码The prospect of sharing supplies is where the business of healthcare makes cooperation hard even in a crisis.


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