As COVID-19 spreads to new hotspots, hospitals should prepare for up to a 17x surge in supply demand

April 6, 2020

Premier Inc. has released survey results quantifying the surge capacity needed for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies in hospitals as COVID-19 cases spread to new areas of the country. Survey data shows that active cases of COVID-19 create surge demand of 17X the typical burn rate for N95 respirators, 8.6X for face shields, 6X for swabs, 5X for isolation gowns and 3.3X for surgical masks.

Premier’s survey is the first to quantify surge capacity and supply burn rates, by category, for the provider community, essential facts needed to prepare for an influx of COVID-19 cases. According to the survey, availability of PPE and burn rates for PPE products were the two most commonly cited “surprises” of the pandemic.

“Since our earlier survey of hospitals’ supply levels, we have much more precise detail on the increased use of supplies,” says Premier President Michael J. Alkire. “Our data shows that many providers believed they were well equipped, only to see their stocks depleted in a matter of days as they started requiring increased use of PPE across a broader population of healthcare workers. In providing new information on surge needs, we hope more hospitals will better understand what’s ahead so they can begin conserving supplies and adjusting their overall plans before they have a confirmed case. As we’ve seen repeatedly with this pandemic, planning and preparedness are essential to providing continuous, quality care.”

According to the survey, hospitals ranked the supply of N95 respirators as their top concern. Comparing the number of respirators the hospital used before and after confirmed COVID-19 cases were admitted, Premier calculated a surge need of up to 17X. The survey also found that the average respondent had 23 days of N95 inventory on hand. However, those with active COVID-19 patients had an average of just three days’ worth.

“To date, most attention about supply shortages has focused on N95 masks, which was one of the first PPE items to fall into short supply as consumption surged to provide care to COVID-19 patients,” Alkire says. “Although this supply remains a top concern, backorders for surgical masks, isolation gowns, thermometers and disinfecting wipes are surging and quickly surpassing demand for N95s. This is an early warning signal of product shortages that may be on the horizon and need to be planned around.”

“Based on the surge capacity needs identified, as well as best practices learned from hospitals in hotspots like New York, Premier encourages every facility to begin surge planning for these supplies immediately,” Alkire says. “At a time when many providers are operating in crisis mode, these statistics are critical to our hospitals as we assist them in using predictive modeling to prepare for their future supply needs.”

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