Last year’s flu season was the longest one in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, 2019 has been a banner year for shortages in healthcare, both for critical drugs and for medical devices, including potential shortages for surgical kits used in heart surgery.
Hospitals and emergency rooms typically see their highest volumes of the year during flu season. As the CDC estimates 5-20 percent of the population gets the flu each year, hospitals need to be extra prepared to care for patients amidst the backdrop of potential market disruptions.
The Best Defense
Providers should continue to urge that the community maintain vigilant hygiene practices like handwashing and sneezing into your elbow (which is more effective than sneezing into your hands). On top of hand hygiene, the best way for people to avoid getting the flu is by getting the vaccine. That’s why Premier partners with hospitals and health systems across the country to ensure they have ample supply of the flu vaccine.
Here are four ways our group purchasing organization gets vaccines into the hands of those who need them most.
- Our flexible return policy results in more people getting vaccinated. Hospitals are allowed to return up to 30 percent of the flu vaccines they order, and by offering this benefit, we’ve seen that providers are willing to keep more vaccines on their shelves and end up vaccinating throughout the entire season. While we offer 30 percent returnability, we only see about a 12 percent return rate.
- Our distribution strategy helps providers circumvent the potential effects of vaccine shortages. We ensure hospitals receive timely shipments of their pre-ordered vaccines and, if their chosen vaccine manufacturer is facing delays, we can flip the order to come from one of the other manufacturers we work with that has ample supply. This enables providers to stay on track with pre-scheduled flu clinics and vaccinate more quickly.
- We organize the market to shift supply to those who need it most based on true, current needs. Because our distributor has a high-level view of how vaccine shipments are coming in from multiple manufacturers, we tend to have a sixth sense of which manufacturers may have shortages and can increase our orders from the manufacturers we know have sufficient supply, shifting units to hospitals that require them before fulfilling standard orders.
- Our experts are hyperaware of potential drug and medical device disruptions and are working to subvert them. Through our unique supply chain efforts, including ProvideGx, a program that provides continuous and affordable access to shortage medications from a list of more than 100 currently on the drug shortage list, we’re helping hospitals reduce delays or stoppages in delivering life-saving, high-quality patient care that would otherwise be halted by inadequate drug supply.
The 2019-2020 flu season is projected to be a rough one. The U.S. flu season tends to mirror the Southern Hemisphere’s season and this year, public health experts noted Australia saw an earlier-than-usual-peak of flu cases and experienced a tough season overall.
Learn more about Premier's sourcing strategy and how it can help ensure a steady supply of the flu vaccine for your healthcare organization.