The rapid spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, across the country is straining the medical equipment supply chain in ways never imagined. Whether it’s sky-high demand for essential items, such as laboratory equipment and patient monitors, or the urgent need for accessories and parts, such as ventilators, ventilator hoses or fittings, medical equipment suppliers are scrambling not only to keep up with demand but also to increase their product and service capacity.
In this question-and-answer article, Mara Paré, vice president of client solutions for medical equipment supplier PartsSource Inc., shared her insights with Digital Commerce 360 B2B on meeting the challenges to the medical equipment supply chain posed by the coronavirus pandemic. PartsSource, which sells online at PartsSource.com and generates 78% of its sales through ecommerce, supplies medical replacement parts and equipment, including batteries, beds, tables, cables, infusion pumps, monitors, sterilizers, and surgical products.
Paré, who joined PartsSource in 2018, specializes in delivering operational efficiencies in complex clinical environments. She heads PartsSource’s client solutions team, which works to deliver customers cost and quality improvement through the company’s technology, process analytics, and on-demand procurement model. The following questions and answers were slightly edited for length and clarity.
DC360: Please describe the scope of your business.
Paré: PartsSource currently offers more than 4 million medical equipment replacement parts and services, servicing over 3,500 hospitals across the United States. The PartsSource.com procurement platform has 85,000 registered users. The platform allows users to quickly source the parts they need to keep healthcare equipment operational for patient care.
DC360: How is PartsSource growing in sales volume during the pandemic?
Paré: As a technology-based healthcare services company focused on active supply chain management, serving over 3,500 hospitals, we have seen a significant increase in order volume. We are up 30-50% during the COVID-19 outbreak across certain market segments. Across mission-critical equipment directly related to COVID-19, we have seen a more than 1000% increase in respiratory equipment and a more than 400% increase in other areas, such as patient monitoring and infusion pumps.
DC360: How are you making adjustments with products, services and suppliers?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PartsSource has focused on increasing our product and service capacity, as well as that of our suppliers to meet the massive increase in demand for COVID-19 essential medical devices. COVID-19 essential devices include ventilators, patient monitors, patient beds, ultrasound equipment, laboratory equipment, AEDs (automated external defibrillators), X-Ray, CT (computed tomography or CAT scan) and other imaging systems.
This also includes all corresponding replacement parts and service capabilities for such equipment, as well as all other medical equipment critical to hospitals, and healthcare networks nationwide.
DC360: How are PartsSource employees dealing with the pandemic?
Paré: PartsSource is an essential business for critical operations and infrastructure within the healthcare industry during the COVID-19 crisis. To protect the health and well-being of our workforce, we have migrated the majority of our team members to work remotely from their home offices.
As a technology-based organization, we process nearly 90% of our orders electronically to fulfill our customers’ product needs. A limited number of team members working within customer care, warehouse operations, IT and other critical functions, are continuing to report to the office.
Over the past several weeks, our team members have worked incredibly hard to get orders for mission-critical parts, rentals and equipment processed and out to our customers to ensure continuity of patient care.
DC360: How have your customer’s needs changed during the pandemic?
Paré: As hospitals in hot-spot regions experience a surge in COVID-19 cases, we also see an increasing demand for rush shipments and emergency sourcing of high-demand accessories and critical parts.
An excellent example of this trend is a call one of our customer care representatives received recently when a New York City hospital received a shipment of ventilators from the state of New York that did not come with any hoses or fittings. The hospital’s director of biomedical engineering reached out to PartsSource in urgent need of ventilator tubing that he could not secure from other vendors. The PartsSource representative was able to work with one of our certified secondary market suppliers to secure the hoses and fittings needed to get the ventilators up and running within a day.
In addition, many hospitals are preparing for expected demand, creating bulk-buy orders for critical parts and minor equipment. As part of our business continuity plan, we implemented a bulk-buy hotline to ensure prompt and efficient fulfillment of bulk customer orders.
DC360: How is PartsSource sourcing the most in-demand products?
Paré: PartsSource has access to millions of parts from original equipment manufacturers and the secondary market and is well-positioned to assist our customers with sourcing needs outside their core product needs. We are in daily contact with suppliers and are managing these partnerships to best serve our customers.
Deep, actionable insights gained from the early phase of this pandemic, our conversations with customers and suppliers, and the data we have from hospitals across the country have allowed us to successfully adapt our processes and systems, use data in new ways to serve customers, and provide new resources and solutions to help guide their focus on improving up-time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a technology-based healthcare services company, PartsSource has developed early-warning systems to monitor the supply chain across modalities. These developments include surge-capacity reports and supplier surveillance reports that allow us to monitor data in real-time, then use that data to take immediate action.
DC360: What are some other special features that PartsSource.com offers customers?
Paré: Key features for the procurement of parts and services include a one-stop digital platform with more than 4 million SKUs across 6,000 OEMs, plus secondary replacement products. Our platform also has a sophisticated supplier quality-ranking engine that offers our customers active quality management, with supplier scorecards and ISO 9001:2015 certifications. It also features a flat-rate depot repair service for more than 650 equipment models across all major OEMs.
With the launch of the PartsSource Community, we are expanding our online platform to support peer-to-peer collaboration and encourage innovation and knowledge-sharing among clinical engineering (and supply chain teams) at the company’s more than 3,500 hospital clients. Clients can use the PartsSource Community to access modality guides, predictive stocking models, and curated content to share best practices with industry colleagues.
DC360: Where does PartsSource see its market heading over the near and long terms?
Paré: The pandemic has emphasized how important a reliable healthcare supply chain is for delivering quality patient care. Our business is built on this philosophy and we understand the role an actively managed supply chain plays, especially in times of high demand, when clinical engineers need to increase uptime for critical equipment for patient care.
In the short term, we expect hospitals outside of COVID-19 hot-spot regions to develop a more robust continuity plan and look more closely at their equipment needs. We see them working with their vendors to take a quantitative look at their supply chain for not only equipment and parts, but service, accessories, general supplies, hoses, and preventative maintenance kits. They will strive to understand what they will need if they see a surge in COVID-19 cases, and how to stretch a limited budget.
Later, as the hospitals transition to a recovery phase, we expect to see further adoption of managed services platforms to increase supply chain reliability, increase technician productivity, and decrease HTM (healthcare technology management) department costs.
We also expect increased demand for additional on-site maintenance services that expand the HTM department’s capacity to tend to mission-critical equipment through in-house maintenance and specialized service partnerships. We will continue to provide solutions that empower clinical engineering and HTM leaders, charged with upholding patient safety through equipment up-time, to achieve high-performance HTM through measurable improvements in quality, productivity and costs.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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