The coronavirus has companies of all types in all markets scrambling to find more inventory as supply chains continue to be disrupted.
But the race to procure more product suppliers with inventory is no more acute than in healthcare, where providers and many other types of organizations on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus are hard-pressed to find equipment in extremely short supply, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and respirators.
One new source many companies are turning to online in earnest is B2B marketplaces. A case in point is Kwipped.com, a marketplace in business since 2010 and a digital platform offering B2B equipment rental, leasing and lease-to-own options through a large network of suppliers in different vertical markets.
Serving several medical markets
Among the vertical markets where Kwipped.com does business is in healthcare and specifically in niches such as medical and laboratory equipment, among others. Lately business has been booming, says CEO Robert Preville.
In medical and laboratory equipment, Kwipped.com has a network of about 410 sellers and includes healthcare companies in the market to lease, lease-to-own and finance medical equipment ranging from ambulatory blood-pressure monitors to respirators and ventilators.
In the laboratory testing space, Kwipped.com has a base of 502 suppliers that provide lease, lease-to-own and financing for companies in need for such products as three-dimensional bioprinters to protein analyzers. “It’s a pretty diverse range for both markets,” Preville says.
In a normal month, the Kwipped.com’s transaction volume between suppliers and buyers for the leasing of medical and laboratory equipment is a steady but hardly needle-moving business, Preville says.
Healthcare organizations scramble for supplies
But the coronavirus has changed all of that, and now healthcare organizations are scrambling to find any new source of supply for PPE equipment and respirators. In their search for new suppliers, many healthcare companies are turning to B2B marketplaces in general to find any available inventory, and they’re using Kwipped.com for certain types of extremely hard-to-find respirators and ventilators and the items that support and maintain them, Preville says.
For example, in January and February, Kwipped.com had 28 requests from companies looking to lease or lease-to-own ventilators, the machines that provide mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of a patient’s. For the period of March 1 to April 17, the number of requests for ventilators increased nearly 32,000% to 15,319, Kwipped says.
Other categories also showed big gains, including for beds, where the number of requests for hospital beds grew 1,705% from 122 to 2,167, and for medical pumps, which numbered 45 requests in January and February, then jumped 4,155% to 1,915 March 1 to April 17. “There has been such a shortage for everyone the last 30 days that everyone that’s looking for supplies is casting a wider net,” Preville says.
In normal times the supply chain for hospitals and health systems is more traditional, meaning that because of the types and quantities of products and services hospitals purchase and because of the complex and regulatory nature of the industry most healthcare providers tend to buy products from long-time suppliers to the industry, Preville says.
But as more healthcare organizations scour all avenues to find PPE products and ventilators, many of these organizations are turning to the web, ecommerce and B2B marketplaces for the first time to secure the equipment they need.
Ventilators sell out in a week’s time
In about a week’s time recently, all of the ventilators available on Kwipped were scooped up. “A B2B marketplace expands the footprint of the sources healthcare organizations can use to find badly needed supplies and in a way that is online, easier and allows them to do a lot of research,” Preville says. “They can submit requests to a lot of suppliers, submit proposals, and make a better purchasing decision.”
There also are benefits for B2B sellers as more healthcare organizations find them online. A case in point is ReNew Biomedical, a company that repairs, services, leases, and sells medical equipment.
ReNew was founded over a decade ago and has grown to fill a 50,000-square-foot facility in Jackson, Tennessee. The company expanded its reach to include ecommerce in 2015 and has worked with Kwipped.com for about two years, says Caleb Curlin, ReNew’s national sales director. But lately, the uptick in renting, leasing-to-own, and outright buying of refurbished ventilators through transactions on Kwipped.com has resulted in a sell-out of ventilator stock.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, ReNew Biomedical sold, rented, or leased-to-own approximately 10 to 12 new and refurbished ventilators per month. With help from companies like Kwipped.com, ReNew is now selling more substantial quantities of equipment in shorter amounts of time. “This avenue has allowed us to discover new relationships that are quickly growing in stature and increasing our bottom line,” Curlin says. “The marketplace cuts through the multiple layers of bureaucracy and makes healthcare acquisitions easier and more transparent.”
As the coronavirus settles in and healthcare providers, first responders and others continue to look for more items such as PPE, respirators and ventilators that remain in critically short supply, B2B marketplace will play a more elevated and better way to find, lease and finance products online, Preville says. “For a lot of healthcare organizations used to a very structured supply chain, B2B marketplaces, for them, are a whole new way of doing business,” he says.
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