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A Crystal Ball That Forecasts Supply Needs in a Crisis

The phrase “supply shortage” became common parlance this spring. At the beginning of the pandemic, most of the discussion centered on personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. Soon, drugs and testing supplies joined the list of items at risk.

As waves of new shortages crested, some health systems – with no way to receive adequate warning of an oncoming surge – felt they were caught flat-footed.

What healthcare providers needed then – and will continue to need moving forward – is a reliable way to predict whether their supply needs will increase, decrease or level off in the future. With the right data, it’s possible.

Health systems around the nation are now using technology to be better informed about how rapidly virus cases are spreading and the supplies they will need at any given point in a disease’s progression. This is critical to not only preparing for future waves, but also safely maintaining elective procedures – and, ultimately, financial solvency.

Technology that aggregates clinical surveillance and supply chain data is critical to projecting future supply needs and bed capacity.

Technology that overlays predictive modeling with clinical surveillance and supply chain data creates a powerful projection for a provider’s supply utilization, based on the volume and severity of cases in the area. Armed with this information, decision-makers are better able to plan and allocate supplies, as well as receive an early indication of potential shortages that they may be able to work around.

Premier used its comprehensive hospital data to develop a crisis forecasting and planning tool that predicts the number of disease cases over 14 days by county, and models the supply levels a healthcare provider will need based on estimated case volume and typical surge demand.

Of course, supply needs are not always equal everywhere within a health system. Using Premier’s tool, decision-makers have supply projections at their fingertips to allocate supplies to specific care sites or geographies. This avoids bottlenecks or hoarding; supplies go to the care sites with the greatest need.

In addition, the tool aggregates clinical surveillance and supply chain data to visualize the patients who are receiving care in various settings and when they may need to elevate to a higher level of care, helping providers plan for bed capacity. With predictive analytics that are customized for each facility, the tool indicates the health system’s potential bed and supply utilization two weeks in advance.

Drive supply decisions with projections that are updated in near real time.

Providers should be enabled with a supply forecasting tool that uses local and national data from a variety of sources to model trends and predict where COVID-19 cases will increase, both by county and facility location. Going a step further, a tool should allow providers to drill into their supply chain data to find suppliers, regardless of whether they are on contract with their group purchasing organization (GPO).

Premier’s crisis forecasting and planning tool, for example, links Premier GPO members directly into the supply catalog so they can see and evaluate contracts and prices. The related product listing within the tool enables providers to look for product categories and subcategories that are critical to COVID-19 care. Providers can also find suppliers who can potentially fulfill product orders, regardless of whether the suppliers are on contract.

This is a huge benefit because it gives the provider one platform through which they can find suppliers that can fulfill critical supply orders. Providers need not go searching for the information; the tool compiles it all in a user-friendly format.

A Crystal Ball into the Future

With COVID-19 remaining in the foreground for the foreseeable future, providers need technology that helps them predict waves and access the supplies they need so they can protect their workers and care for their patients.

Premier’s technology goes beyond predicting upcoming waves and supply needs; it enables providers to plan capacity and volumes for elective procedures while caring for COVID-19 patients. This element will be key to providers’ margin improvement in the months ahead, as providers aim to successfully resume – and safely sustain – non-essential services.

Earlier this spring, some may have anticipated that, by summer, COVID-19 would be a thing of the past. However, rising cases and hospitalizations in pockets across the U.S. show that we as a country – and particularly as an industry – will likely have a long road ahead.

Stay ahead of the surge. See this technology in action.

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