HGPII Report Details GPO’s Role in Helping Health Care Supply Chain Navigate COVID-19

HGPII Report Details GPO’s Role in Helping Health Care Supply Chain Navigate COVID-19

On Thursday, February 3rd, the Healthcare Group Purchasing Industry Initiative (HGPII) released its 16th Annual Report. This edition contains insights into the role of group purchasing organizations (GPOs) in responding to the critical issues facing the healthcare supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides policy direction focused on improving supply chain resiliency, as well as promoting ethical and professional cost control within the American healthcare system.

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HGPII was established in 2005 by nine of the nation’s foremost GPOs that pledged to adopt and implement a set of principles for business ethics and conduct. Today, HGPII is leading the effort to educate healthcare providers, consumers, and policymakers about the integrity and importance of the industry. These best practices are shared at the HGPII Annual Forum and independently evaluated annually with the HGPII Annual Report.

In 2021, the evolving nature of COVID-19 was met by public health efforts to promote vaccination and continual focus on improving medical supply chain flexibility. The 2022 Annual Report determines the contributions of GPOs that led to the timely delivery of supplies, mitigated cost spikes, identified supply chain problems, and improved collaboration with public health strategies.

Following interviews and review of member questionnaires, we are able to conclude:

  • GPOs were vital sources of support and expertise for public officials, member healthcare providers, and communities around the nation during the earliest moments of the pandemic.
  • GPO experts developed central command settings and regular online member meetings to communicate supplier status reports, distribute supply disruption notices, and identify product conservation strategies, allowing member GPOs to determine whether any of the thousands of leads evaluated during the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic were viable.
  • HGPII members uniformly upheld a commitment to contracting practices that balance cost, quality and availability, despite persistent demand for healthcare products.
  • GPOs efforts to promote resiliency in the healthcare supply chain helped to expand capacity for several essential products and address concerns about the healthcare supply chain during future shortages.
  • Key group purchasing organizations worked alongside the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and leaders at FEMA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide detailed recommendations to avoid shortages.
  • Key industry executives took an active voluntary role in advising FEMA and the CDC in responding to supply chain developments; some also testified before Congress.
  • Several GPOs created guidance documents related to conservation protocols for supplies that helped ensure proper utilization of PPE among various healthcare entities across the country.

As a result, investigations by several GPOs were able to identify shell companies and determine whether potential foreign PPE suppliers met quality, regulatory, authenticity, and reliability requirements. Group purchasing organizations continued to provide expertise for leaders at federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control, to help educate decision-makers about supply availability. A key role of numerous GPOs has been to maximize their suppler chain expertise, collaborate with the government, and sort through the millions of pandemic-related data points. Providing proactive guidance to providers, GPOs’ role in developing and advancing healthcare technology allowed hospitals to quantify the impact of PPE conservation approaches, and forecast surges in COVID-19, helping to plan and prepare for outbreaks. Group purchasing organizations continue to play a critical role in developing online applications and innovative software that encourage the development of healthcare technology and foster better management of pandemic-related challenges. These adaptations have benefitted physicians, healthcare providers, and patients alike, allowing for new vendors to bring innovative products to market.

Healthcare group purchasing organizations do not constitute a barrier to innovation in the healthcare system; to the contrary, the information that we have reviewed suggests that GPO networks provide critical support for the promotion of new services and technologies within the healthcare marketplace and are especially beneficial to startups and small suppliers. Like prior editions, this year’s annual report ensures that group purchasing organizations can foster public awareness, understanding, accessibility, and help promote confidence among the public, and the government, about the integrity of the healthcare supply chain and group purchasing organizations.

“While we couldn’t have predicted for the pandemic to continue as it did through 2021, GPOs’ implementation of lasting changes has only progressed as organizations improve their best practices through these continual challenges presented by COVID-19. GPOs not only gave valuable support to healthcare providers and government officials but identified key supply chain issues that have a critical impact on healthcare reliability and innovation.”– Philip S. English, HGPII National Coordinator

“GPOs once again provided strong support in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, including proactive decision making and pivotal action to address crucial problems in the healthcare supply chain. The dedicated commitment from the nation’s group purchasing organizations is reflected through the strategic solutions to address the vetting of suppliers of essential health products, expedited approvals, pharmacy services, and collaborative efforts with federal and state authorities.”– Senator Byron Dorgan, HGPII National Co-Coordinator