Stellar product MVPs notable for their essentialness amid pandemic response

Dec. 21, 2020
2020-2021 Healthcare Product All-Stars

To achieve “All-Star” status in anything business- or sports-related, one likely is judged on his or her performance during a specified time frame, whether that’s a calendar year, fiscal year or playing season. In addition, the All-Star executive or athlete most likely earned “Most Valuable Player (MVP)” status during a series of projects or games where he or she achieved stellar results or satisfied a need.

Healthcare products are no different.

Last month, Healthcare Purchasing News unveiled its Healthcare Product Hall of Fame, spotlighting the 10 members of the inaugural Class of 2020, highlighting each’s lifetime industry contributions and recognizing the companies that brought them to market.

This month, HPN debuts its Healthcare Product All-Stars, briefly profiling seven relevant products and services that within the last year – and most likely throughout this year – excelled at meeting and exceeding clinical and public demand, driving into the end zone for the benefit of patient care. Over time, any of these seven All-Stars could qualify for Hall of Fame recognition once they’ve recorded a long and solid “career” of contributions.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (six of seven) can trace their All-Star determination and status to the coronavirus pandemic as their utility to fight the spread of COVID-19 remains essential. The seventh concentrates on convenience and pain reduction to monitor a chronic disease.

Without further delay, following are HPN’s seven Healthcare Product All-Stars with an approving nod to the companies that bring them to market.

Hand-held external temperature scanner


Measuring a person’s temperature, a necessary step for diagnosing illness and determining treatment, used to involve an invasive procedure that relied on a contained but hazardous liquid metal that reacted to heat. Then Francesco Pompei, Ph.D., engineer, inventor, physicist and scientist, decided to think outside the body cavity. Such ingenuity propelled the art and science of thermometry into heretofore unseen noninvasive territory. His company, Exergen Corp., launched the “temporal artery scanner” that uses infrared sensors to detect a person’s temperature by swiping the device softly across the skin.

“Exergen TemporalScanner thermometers have changed the way the world takes temperature,” said Marybeth Pompei, Ph.D., Exergen’s Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Scientist, also a nurse and bioethicist. “Patients no longer need to be subjected to invasive, uncomfortable, and sometimes harmful temperature probes in order to obtain accurate temperatures. With the Exergen TemporalScanner, just a gentle scan of the forehead produces a medically accurate temperature, with accuracy backed by more than 80 peer-reviewed published studies.”

Pompei points to the accuracy, convenience and pain-free nature of noninvasive thermometry.

“We remember when a nurse approaching a patient with a thermometer produced anxiety, fear and physical resistance on the part of the patient,” she indicated. “It is very satisfying to hear nurses report that their patients smile when they approach with an Exergen TemporalScanner to take their temperature. We also see nurses smile when they tell this story, reflecting that they find the use of the Exergen TemporalScanner a very pleasant experience for them as well.”

Her husband Francesco Pompei, Ph.D., is Exergen’s Founder, CEO and President.

Exergen’s invention of noninvasive thermometry motivated some to try to push the concept even further. If you can take someone’s temperature outside of the body on the surface of the skin, why can’t you take someone’s temperature outside of the body and away from the surface of the skin? These companies created a niche of “non-contact” thermometry as a potential extension of the concept.

While Exergen’s noninvasive temporal artery thermometer remains popular in clinical settings and, by and large, the gold standard in medical and surgical circles, non-contact thermometers are gaining in popularity and widespread use outside of the healthcare arena in such places as schools, universities, stadia, restaurants and retail stores. Supporters attribute demand for these devices to the additional distance between a person taking the temperature of another.

However, a recent observational study reported in a respected infection control publication found that the farther removed the thermometer was from the patient’s skin the less accurate its temperature reading was above 99.5 degrees. Pompei indicates the non-contact devices used for mass screening for fever gives a “false sense of security.” This also leads to accuracy questions about “smart helmet scanners” used in some European airports for non-contact thermometry.

PPE duo (face shields and N95 respirators only)

When an easily and rapidly transmissible respiratory virus spreads around the globe, clinicians and other healthcare workers delivering patient care in confined but exposure-laden spaces require something a bit more protective than standard hand-sewn, homemade cloth covers, masks and woven surgical masks. They need much more durable products that can filter out and repel most, if not all, airborne, liquid and solid contaminants. One option (face shields), made of clear, protective plastic, migrated to healthcare from other industries, such as construction and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO). The other option (N95 respirators) can trace its roots back to Peter Tsai, an inventor and materials scientist who patented the N95 respirator and its synthetic filtration material in 1995.

The explosion of COVID-19 in early 2020 spiked consumer demand for these higher-end clinical products, leading initially to stockouts and shortages for clinicians and healthcare workers on the front lines until federal and state authorities redirected mass consumption to standard cloth and surgical masks. This, combined with the 3-D print production of face shields by a growing number of charitable and social responsibility-minded companies, helped to replenish supply.

3M Health Care certainly recognizes and understands the supply-and-demand pressures on N95 products wrought by the pandemic, according to a statement the company issued to HPN.

“With the COVID-19 global pandemic, healthcare workers around the globe face extraordinary challenges every day. 3M is committed to supplying our healthcare heroes with N95 respirators so they can continue to treat their patients,” 3M Health Care stated.. “As a leading manufacturer of N95 respirators in the U.S., 3M is making more respirators than ever before. We will produce 2 billion respirators globally by the end of 2020, supporting the public health and government response to the pandemic, while helping businesses return to work as economies reopen.”

Owens & Minor/Halyard weathers the supply-and-demand pressures, too.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the fundamental role personal protective equipment (PPE) plays in the delivery of safe, effective healthcare,” said Alex Hodges, Vice President of Marketing & Global Strategy, Owens & Minor/Halyard. “So much so that PPE is a now a widely understood acronym among policymakers and the public, in particular N95 respirators that have become a household name.

Hodges notes that while some N95s approved for emergency use are industrial grade, the Halyard N95s are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration as medical devices for use in healthcare settings. Further, the Fluidshield Surgical N95s are manufactured domestically. The duckbill breathing chamber is more than twice as large as the leading surgical N95, and exceeds NIOSH standards for breathability, according to Hodges. Because proper snug fit is critical, Owens & Minor/Halyard’s N95s come in a range of sizes, with malleable nose wire to adjust fit and have strong elastic straps that are securely bonded — not stapled — to the mask.

The need for face shields in certain areas pre-dates the demand COVID-19 brought on.

“Face masks and face shields have long been critical tools in protecting healthcare workers from airborne contaminants,” said Ralph Basile, Vice President, Healthmark Industries. “At Healthmark, our focus is the processing professional responsible for cleaning clinically used medical devices. Generally referred to as the ‘dirty-side’ as the name implies, this is the area where heavily soiled medical devices arrive to be cleaned. While COVID-19 has brought sharp focus on PPE, and particularly face masks and face shields, the fact of the matter is, those working on the ‘dirty side’ have always been working in a very hazardous environment.

“The act of manual cleaning, for instance, inevitably aerosolizes contaminants on the medical device,” Basile continued. “The source of most of those contaminants comes from patients, often patients with compromised immune systems and/or infections. When airborne, these contaminants represent a significant risk to the worker. Splashing can lead to contaminants reaching the eyes, mouth, nose and attire of the worker. Aerosolized contaminants can be breathed in by mouth or nose. Without protection tools, such as face shields, and face masks, as well as other engineering controls (splash screens, for instance), staff are at very high risk of being infected with serious, life-threatening, contaminants.”

The challenge healthcare – and Healthmark – faced is that the virus originated and moved from the same geographical location as where many PPE items are manufactured. Essentially, shortages followed the spreading virus, according to Basile.

“To address this, we pivoted to find domestic sources for face shields, and also developed our own capabilities to make our very popular style of face shield – the face shield with a drape,” Basile noted. “The drape material (which is SMS) is attached to the bottom of the face shield and is then tucked into the protective gown, providing protection of the neck area from splashing. It took us a couple of months to find a suitable source and develop our production line. But I am happy to say we are now able to reliably supply face shields to the sterile processing professionals who need them.”

Designed by biomedical engineers, CleanSpace Technology’s CleanSpace HALO is a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) that eliminates the need to stockpile disposable N95 respirators and solves the problem of supply chain disruptions experienced during the pandemic, according to Alex Birrell, Ph.D., CEO.

“For those wearing CleanSpace HALO, the benefits include a higher level of protection and increased comfort,” Birrell indicated. “CleanSpace HALO overcomes a lot of the discomfort issues that healthcare workers commonly experience when wearing disposable N95s, such as heat stress, fogging, moisture and facial scarring. When compared to traditional PAPRs, CleanSpace HALO is a game changer in that it has none of the belts and hoses usually associated with PAPRs and it’s really lightweight, simple to use and deploy.”

Clinicians can treat COVID-19 patients while comfortably wearing CleanSpace HALO for up to nine hours, and they can communicate easily with colleagues and patients while wearing the respirator, Birrell added.

IF BENCHED: Not only would clinicians and other healthcare workers risk exposure to bacterial and viral microbes but they’d also fail to recognize and avert health-compromising habits.

“Ruhof’s Anti-Fog Face Shields are vital to the welfare and safety of healthcare providers especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Noreen Costelloe, Director of Marketing, Ruhof Healthcare Corp.  “The face shields are designed to provide face and eye protection from the splattering/splashing of hazardous or infectious substances, while also delivering added protection against airborne droplets. The blue forehead latex-free band is cushioned and offers a snug fit, while the chin-length guard allows cool air flow to the face, ensuring comfortable protection during long shifts. The lightweight anti-fog shield provides continuous, clear visibility and can be worn comfortably with surgical face masks, eyeglasses or safety goggles. When paired with a mask, Ruhof’s Face Shields truly help keep clinicians safe by preventing absent-minded face touching and providing an additional barrier against viral infection.”

If anything, the pandemic caused clinicians and healthcare workers to redefine and expand their roles and potential risk, according to Alana Suomela, Director, Corporate Marketing, Key Surgical.

“As a global provider for protective products such as face masks, face shields, barrier gowns, gloves, etc., our priority is to ensure our customers have what they need in order to perform their duties,” Suomela said. “Of course, the definition of ‘duties’ has now taken on a different form due to the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19. In addition to performing their vital roles in healthcare, clinicians, techs, surgeons, nurses, etc., are now also being called upon to help with COVID cases. Without masks and supplies, our healthcare professionals, ancillary staff, patients, and families would have increased risk of spreading or being exposed to the virus. The need for sufficient supply of PPE is ever present.”

Suomela acknowledges the “creativity” shown by clinicians and other healthcare workers in dealing with shortages, but remains concerned about the risk exposure.

“The unprecedented increase in demand caused PPE availability shortage on a global scale and facilities were requiring their workers to reuse single-use face masks and shields, rationing available PPE, and even creating makeshift masks made of cloth or surgical wrap,” she said. “While the creativity is commendable, protection levels – particle filtration, bacterial filtration, etc. – can’t be guaranteed, which puts our front-line workers at contamination risk. Our ability to quickly pivot to design new masks and shields and add them to our product line for our customers helped relieve this shortage, providing proper protective equipment specifically designed for use in hospitals, [for] surgery, etc.”

Key Surgical’s OR Clinical Education Manager Michelle Lemmons emphasizes the “need” over the “want,” expressing satisfaction that “we were able to provide vital supplies to those who needed them when they needed them.”

UV disinfecting/sanitizing light technology

While “germ-zapping robots” may have debuted as a novel way to disinfect rooms with a degree of automated efficiency, they now are taking on COVID-19 in even more novel ways. Not only are healthcare facilities using pulsed ultraviolet light emitted from these portable units to disinfect surfaces in rooms, but they’re increasingly using them to disinfect face shields and N95 respirators for reuse. Meanwhile, other companies are using UV technology to disinfect and sanitize the air of viral particles before they have a chance to fall to a surface. In addition, some companies are adapting the technology for hand-held wands, pocket-worn badges and even wireless smartphone-charging stations that sanitize the germ-riddled communication devices.

Executives at Xenex Disinfection Services marvel at the ingenuity of healthcare facilities.

“Every day we hear from healthcare facilities about the extreme stress and pressure they are under because of the pandemic,” said Irene Hahn, Xenex’s Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “It’s been our honor to provide them with a technology to assist in their battle against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the innovation we have seen from the hospitals in their use of our Germ-Zapping Robots to quickly disinfect rooms and areas is inspiring.”

Hospital-acquired infections and manual cleaning remain ongoing challenges, according to Hahn.

“Before the pandemic, nearly 300 people died in the U.S. every day from an infection they contracted during their hospital stay,” she indicated. “Very little has changed in manual hospital cleaning techniques in the past 20 years, although the superbugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics and some cleaning chemicals. Hospital Infection Preventionists and [Environmental Services] Directors have been asking for new technologies in their battle against pathogens, and now that preventing disease transmission is a global priority, they are getting the attention they have long deserved. Investing in LightStrike robots is helping them battle not just SARS-CoV-2, but other pathogens that pose a risk to patient safety – for example, MRSA, C.diff and VRE.

“When we began hearing reports from overseas about the spread of [COVID-19], one of the first things we did was to test LightStrike against SARS-CoV-2” Hahn continued, “and the robot achieved a 99.99 percent level of disinfection in two minutes. As an evidence-based company, it was very important to us that we confirm efficacy against the actual virus.”

Hahn highlights LightStrike’s speed at deactivating SARS-CoV-2 in two minutes with no warm-up or cool-down time.

“Some hospitals have stationed a robot in the ED so they can disinfect every room and area where coronavirus patients are treated,” Hahn noted. “Others have a robot follow the patient from the ED to radiology, and to their COVID-19 unit, disinfecting rooms against SARS-CoV-2 along the way. The robots are being operated in healthcare facilities around the world around the clock, and it’s humbling for us to be part of their pandemic response plan. Post-pandemic, without question, there will continue to be a need for enhanced room disinfection to battle all of the pathogens that pose a risk to patient safety – MRSA, C.diff, and VRE for examples – as well as emerging pathogens. The investment that hospitals are making in disinfection technology will continue to help them fight this battle well into the foreseeable future.”

Diversey Inc.’s MoomBeam3 offers added assurance for disinfection, according to Carolyn Cooke, Diversey’s Vice President of Healthcare Sales, North America.

“Facilities are taking extra measures to ensure that staff, patients and visitors are protected,” she said. “MoonBeam3 has demonstrated efficacy in seconds against SARS-CoV-2, and other common healthcare pathogens. The system is portable, weighs 39 pounds, and can easily be transported and operated by any associates in the facility. It has multiple safety features, and is very easy to use. During COVID-19, many of our operators have used it prior to manual cleaning to ensure staff members feel safe when cleaning.”

Several companies insist that disinfecting surfaces is useful and necessary but they don’t stop there. They focus their UV technology on the air, zapping germs before gravity pulls them down to surfaces – even COVID-19.

John Neister, President, Far-UV Sterilray, refers to numerous published studies showing that 222nm UV technology effectively kills coronavirus and is safe for humans. One of those studies appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine in October 2015. In fact, his company has been making excimer lamps that produce the Far-UV wavelength since 2007 and holds the patent for 222nm disinfection technology. Further, Far-UV Sterilray’s devices can disinfect the air in real time with people present, according to Neister.

Unfortunately, the pandemic represents a missed prevention opportunity, Neister laments.

“If this technology [were] in place before the pandemic we could have saved thousands of people’s lives,” he said. “We could have protected first responders and healthcare workers by providing them with Far-UV Sterilray lamps to disinfect their PPE, the air in the room and their equipment, while taking off their gear. One study found that over 46 percent of subjects self-contaminated their skin and clothes during their PPE removal. 222nm technology could have made a tremendous difference in flattening the curve.”

The butterfly effect remains significant, Neister insists.

“If this technology [were] already in place before the pandemic, we would not have had to shut down our schools, our companies, or small businesses,” he noted. “Families would have been together at hospitals with their loved ones for major surgeries, births and doctors’ appointments. Production facilities could have been fully staffed. Public transpiration would have been safer. Restaurants could have full capacity again and public events like high school and college graduations wouldn’t have been cancelled.

Disinfecting the air to protect against the airborne coronavirus makes a great deal of sense, according to Bryan Stone, M.D., Internal Medicine & Nephrology, Chief of Medicine Emeritus for Desert Regional Medical Center, Palm Beach, CA, and member of the Board of Directors for Vystar Corp., which makes the RxAir UV light air purification system.

Healthcare professionals as well as the general public are well aware of the usual hygiene protocols such as washing your hands, [wearing] face masks and controlling where you sneeze,” Stone said. “We all were told that this would curb airborne disease transmission. However, none of us were entirely satisfied with the results. Now we are faced with the airborne coronavirus pandemic that raises the odds and results in high rates of illness and death.”

Healthcare has been slow to adopt an approach for airborne coronavirus because healthcare experts initially linked transmission to contact, according to Stone.  

“SARS CoV-2 traveled from Wuhan, China around the entire planet in 60 days, Stone said. “Clearly, this involved air and droplet transmission as hundreds of scientists stated. The transmission from surface exposure is far less important, yet millions of dollars are spent on surface disinfection that is compromised the moment an infected individual breathes, talks or coughs, leaving a cloud of pathogens waiting to be inhaled by or land in the eyes of others. Too many clinicians are forced to rely solely on PPE and surface disinfection to protect themselves from coronavirus and other airborne pathogens.”

Clinicians, patients and consumers in general must take air disinfection more seriously, according to Stone.

“People are now paying more attention to the air in the 26,000 breaths they take each day,” he noted. “We as healthcare professionals have to understand and appropriately address the airborne problem that has been in front of us. It is important to select FDA-cleared Class II medical devices that have been independently tested in FDA- and EPA-certified labs to be effective at inactivating or killing viruses and other pathogens. Untested units will not only waste money but create a false sense of security that can put people at risk. Air purifiers work in concert with traditional hygiene protocols rather than replace them.”

Stone reinforces the importance of air disinfection in professional and personal spaces. He shared several anecdotal testimonials from customers as examples of utility.

IF BENCHED: Healthcare facilities would need to redeploy human disinfection teams that may not be able to reach the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies requiring cleaning and disinfection. Without air disinfection devices, healthcare facilities would be left with air “purifiers” not cleared by FDA as Class II medical devices but something purchased at a local retail store.

It’s technology like this that helps clinicians and administrators to do their jobs and fight healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), according to Peter Veloz, CEO, UltraViolet Devices Inc. (UVDI).

“The brave men and women preventing Infections everyday on healthcare’s front lines rely on science and evidence to inform critical decisions,” Veloz indicated. “It is for them – and ultimately, the patients we all aim to protect – that we at UVDI are dedicated to the highest levels of evidence-based support for device efficacy, including: Pathogen inactivation claims validated by independent third-party testing; testing conducted at time and distances – five-minute inactivation at eight feet – indicative of efficient whole room disinfection; proven 360-degree surface coverage confirmation; and peer-reviewed published clinical studies demonstrating HAI reduction.

Companies like UVDI strive for such results ahead of any governmental or regulatory body standards, Veloz insists.

“We take these important measures not out of regulatory compliance – as there are no consolidated EPA standards as there are for manual disinfectants – but because it is the right thing to do,” he continued. “Healthcare professionals deserve credible, proven solutions to the day-to-day challenges they face. Without these voluntary initiatives to prove performance, the onus would be on healthcare professionals to spend precious time and resources to investigate claims or to experiment with unproven or ineffective solutions – none of which is a suitable alternative in this or any time. We will continue to push in 2021 to raise the bar for UV device standards in science and evidence, in service of better patient outcomes.”

Far UV Technologies Inc. manufactures the Krypton air and surface disinfection lighting system that serves as a countermeasure to infectious disease in occupied spaces where transmission is most likely to occur, according to P.J. Piper, President and CEO.

Piper emphasizes that the Krypton disinfection ceiling lights are gaining traction in the U.S. military, medical and dental facilities, airports, airplanes and buses and in schools and commercial real estate.

“Hospitals and clinics are increasingly using Krypton disinfection lighting in entrances, lobbies, waiting rooms, exam rooms, operating rooms, patient rooms and ambulances to continuously reduce the viral load in those spaces, whether they have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the common cold or flu or hospital acquired infectious diseases such as MRSA or C difficile,” Piper noted. “Social distancing, wearing masks and better hand hygiene have proven to be useful in combating the spread of COVID-19, but they apparently are not good enough alone as the disease is continuing to spread either due to human error or equipment failure. Adding Krypton Disinfection Lighting as a fourth layer of active protection can help mitigate the remaining risks.”

Wearable glucose monitor

KEY SUPPLIERS: Abbott Laboratories

Being able to test your own blood glucose levels at home without having to see a doctor was considered revolutionary at the time of change for the convenience and control it gave persons managing diabetes. A fingerstick, while fleetingly painful, seemed to some a small price to pay to avoid going to the physician unless absolutely necessary.

Then Abbott Laboratories developed a new wrinkle that could be classified as revolutionary at best but certainly evolutionary at minimum: The FreeStyle Libre. The television commercials appear regularly with the woman nonchalantly holding her mobile phone for a second over the circular sensor explant affixed to her skin to obtain a noninvasive readout in real time. Patients also can customize the system to sound an alarm if blood glucose readings are too low or high or if the reader and sensor experience signal loss for any reason.

In-demand infection prevention trio (disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, high-level disinfectants)

Aside from cash and coins, gems, precious metals and stock shares in 2020, this trio of in-demand infection prevention products may be the closest ever to reach for legitimate currency status this side of bitcoin. Because of rampant demand detonated by COVID-19 fears, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and high-level disinfectants vanished so quickly and routinely from retail store shelves and healthcare facility storeroom shelves, respectively, you’d swear they were the 21st century successor to the Cabbage Patch Dolls of the 1980s and Beanie Babies of the 1990s.

For clinicians and other healthcare workers, the importance of these products – before, during and after a pandemic – remains blatantly obvious.

“Disinfection of healthcare surfaces and non-critical patient care equipment is one of the cornerstones in the foundation for infection prevention practices,” said Debra Hagberg, MT (ASCP), CIC, Director, Clinical Affairs, PDI Healthcare. “PDI created the first pre-moistened germicidal wipe product for healthcare use in 1988. Healthcare providers, including clinicians, would not be able to contribute efficiently and effectively to providing a sanitary patient care environment without PDI Germicidal Disposable Wipes. The ability to have pre-moistened disinfectant wipes at point of use has changed the concept that disinfection is for environmental services only.”

Ecolab Healthcare credits timing as the company launched its Disposable Wipe System near the close of 2019 just as COVID-19 was emerging, according to Chris Paradise, Senior Marketing Manager, Environmental Hygiene for Ecolab Healthcare.

Paradise describes the system as consisting of a low-count roll of disposable dry wipes and a reusable canister, which the user saturates with liquid disinfectant to create a convenient disposable wipe option for disinfection.

“The low-count wipe roll reduces waste associated with the product not being used in a timely manner, product being left open to dry out, or as was the case in some facilities during the pandemic, theft of product,” Paradise said. “Further, the wipe substrate is qualified for compatibility with OxyCide Daily Disinfectant Cleaner, which is widely used by hospitals across the country. OxyCide is based on a peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide and has not been impacted by quat raw material shortages that limited availability of many disinfectants early in the pandemic.”

Diversey aims for speed to augment safety with its Oxivir product, according to Larinda Becker, Executive Director of Infection Prevention Platform, North America.

“During this time, it has been paramount for providers to have a product that is fast for turnover, and is effective against this pathogen and others, as quickly as possible,” she said. “Being tough on pathogens, and not on people is a key benefit of Oxivir, and having a product that has the best possible safety rating in all six toxicity categories has made it available at the point of care. Many products take more time, or dry prior to the pathogens [dying]. Oxivir makes it possible to kill pathogens and enable fast turnover for the next patient.”

As traditional supply dwindled in 2020, hospitals had to pivot, Paradise recalls.

“Numerous hospitals across the country supplemented, and in some cases fully replaced, their depleted stock of pre-saturated wipes with OxyCide paired with the Disposable Wipe System, enabling efficient disinfection by clinical teams at a time when it was needed most,” he noted. “Additionally, since OxyCide has efficacy against C. difficile spores, in most cases hospitals were getting a higher level of antimicrobial efficacy than they were from their prior, non-sporicidal disinfectant wipe. Ecolab has been able to keep these products in stock throughout 2020, helping to ensure hospitals could continue to operate safely.”

IF BENCHED: Without these products healthcare facilities would have to retreat to a “back-to-basics” approach with copious calls for handwashing as well as extensive and arduous use of a variety of soap, disinfectant and bleach products.

“The practice of environmental disinfection would look very different without access to PDI Germicidal Disposable Wipes,” Hagberg indicated. “Cleaning and disinfection would purely fall on the shoulders of environmental service staff who would not be able to perform disinfection as frequently as needed in today’s busy healthcare environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly highlighted this reality. It takes a coordinated effort from all healthcare workers to stunt the spread of highly communicable diseases.”

But Hagberg cites human behavior as the X factor.

“The alternative to PDI Germicidal Disposable Wipes is typically a liquid disinfectant solution in a bucket that is applied by a cloth or mop,” she noted. “This technique can introduce several issues prone to human error, particularly if protocols are performed quickly and more often. Dilutable liquid disinfectants increase the chance of concentration errors during the dilution process and increase potential safety issues regarding splashing to the user. Strict protocols also need to be monitored when using mops/rags to avoid cross contamination between areas of use. Disposable germicidal wipes eliminate these issues by providing ready-to-use pre-moistened wipes, no dilution or mixing required. The convenience of PDI products provides compliance and control for all healthcare workers to use.”

3-D printing/additive manufacturing

KEY SUPPLIERS: 3D Systems, HP, Proto Labs, Stratasys

Using 3-D printing a k a “additive manufacturing” excited and intrigued consumer and business markets alike because just about anyone could obtain this technology to reproduce a variety of products. On the flip side, however, were those expressing concern about intellectual property (e.g., formulas, ingredients, etc.), reliability and risk (e.g., liability) stemming from reproducing such items as medical/surgical device components, orthopedic implants or any fibrous/plastic/synthetic products used throughout a healthcare facility. One popular newspaper even published a story about a guy who 3-D printed a spaghetti dinner that he reviewed as tasting about as good as you might expect or imagine from a 3-D printer versus actual kitchen.

But when the pandemic spurred demand for selected products last year, 3-D printing capabilities alleviated some of the pressure. How and why? Healthcare organizations relied on smaller businesses and local colleges and high schools to produce face shields and other components for PPE products in a pinch that were allowed by federal, state and local authorities to be used for clinical purposes. In fact, a number of hospitals and integrated delivery networks (IDNs) performed their own 3-D printing operations for member/participating facilities to cope with COVID-19 supply chain backorders and shortages.

Freight/shipping services (not including U.S. Postal Service)

If the response to COVID-19 taught us anything about supply chain, it’s this: Delivery matters. As the pandemic, by and large, forced people into varying degrees of quarantine and negatively impacted in-person commerce (e.g., dining in restaurants, shopping in stores), the crisis also served as a boon to the delivery and shipping businesses. After all, people still needed access to products where they worked or lived (in some cases those areas were one and the same) so delivery and shipping services found their capabilities stretched to the limits.

Healthcare, however, took curb service and take-out a bit further.

Jake Crampton, CEO, MedSpeed, describes his company as a “care enabler” for healthcare facilities.

“We get the right item to the right place at the right time for care to be provided,” Crampton noted. “This first and foremost means transporting items with the highest possible quality in order to reduce risk and support care delivery. For more than 20 years, MedSpeeders have understood the impact our service has on patients, providers and their communities. But in light of the COVID-19 crisis, our efforts feel more imperative than ever. MedSpeeders across the country have transported urgent equipment for patients, repositioned PPE to protect providers and supported community outreach efforts through grocery deliveries and hand sanitizer distribution. We have worked long hours and adjusted processes to include the latest safety protocols. Through this trying time, our bond with our customers has become even stronger.”

Delivery and shipping services can help unclog as well as fulfill supply chain requirements.

“Beyond the moment-to-moment support of care delivery, MedSpeed’s approach to this space also means that we help our customers to use logistics as an asset that can physically connect an entire health system,” Crampton continued. “As such, it can be leveraged by the other areas of the healthcare ecosystem in order to increase value exponentially. For example, during this crisis, MedSpeed has worked with our customers to leverage their connected networks to distribute PPE often without additive costs and lower the cost of lab deliveries by streamlining the number of pickups made. Through analytics and technology, we have scaled networks up and down to accommodate changes to non-acute facility operations and the addition of new pop-up sites. We understand that our customers’ priority is care delivery, and it is our responsibility to enable them to do so in the most efficient manner possible.”

IF BENCHED: Healthcare organizations would have to return to using the traditional consumer-oriented freight and shipping services, paying a premium for emergency deliveries that could be more efficiently managed.

“It’s a well-known fact that lack of visibility into the healthcare supply chain causes a lack of productivity and a threat to high-quality patient care,” said Don Carroll, Vice President, Business Development, VPL Inc. “The COVID-19 pandemic shed new light on these issues, revealing several critical vulnerabilities throughout medical device and pharmaceutical supply chains, including demand surges for critical supplies, secondary product shortages and transportation network breakdowns. Even worse, these fractures occurred with little to no transparency and visibility between manufacturers and providers. Although the resulting deferred elective procedures create a future promise of financial recovery, it’s critical for health systems to understand what can be done right now to improve visibility and build a more resilient supply chain in the future.”

VPL conducted a survey in 2020 asking healthcare providers – clinicians specifically – how the lack of visibility in the supply chain affected them, according to Carroll.

“More than 60 percent of the respondents said they are spending valuable time tracking packages on carrier websites and contacting suppliers regarding shipping status, which means they’re doing the work of the supply chain rather than operating at the top of their clinical license,” Carroll noted. “And of the 74 percent of clinicians spending time tracking the status of PPI orders, 44 percent of them are investing a whopping 10 percent of their time each week chasing delivery status. Lack of visibility and lost, expired and backordered products lead to a host of problems, including delayed or cancelled procedures, use of less-than-optimal products, and a lot of wasted time on the part of clinicians.”

As a result, VPL developed a software platform that enables healthcare systems to see vital product moving through their network from point of manufacture all the way to final point of patient care, according to Carroll. This platform extends well beyond freight management, Carroll says, because it allows “healthcare systems to see the best way to move product into their network, see where and when vital product will arrive, see the best way to move product within and outside the network, and see all their freight data and analytics in one place.”

Without such technology, practices, procedures and the resultant patient care would look much the way they have for years, Carroll observes.

“There would be a lack of insight into the status of inbound shipments caused by health systems ordering directly from a manufacturer, which would cause concerns for everyone in the patient-care value chain,” he added. “Lack of visibility would lead to negative financial impact resulting from operational inefficiencies, delayed procedures, unnecessary back-and-forth communication, impaired decision making, and lost and/or expired products.”

“Unlike other manufacturers of PPE, Owens & Minor has more than a century of healthcare experience, and has been a leader in Americas-based production of medical grade PPE helping to ensure a reliable supply chain and ultimately, protecting the critical work of healthcare,”Hodges continued. “At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Owens & Minor ramped up production of critical PPE, including N95s, and has made significant investments in expanding its Americas-based capacity.”

About the Author

Rick Dana Barlow | Senior Editor

Rick Dana Barlow is Senior Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News, an Endeavor Business Media publication. He can be reached at [email protected].