With the U.S. crossing the one-year mark into the COVID-19 global pandemic, Premier analyzed new data from our supply chain forecasting technology to assess the pandemic’s long-term impact on the supply chain.
Has the situation improved compared to the demand spikes that characterized 2020?
The short answer is that while most hospitals are seeing greater availability of many types of personal protective equipment (PPE), the healthcare supply chain remains fragile and constrained.
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Massive increases in global PPE demand created an imbalance in the supply chain and have driven up raw materials prices, which impacts the cost of finished goods. This has cascaded to providers who have incurred additional costs to acquire PPE, adding to existing margin pressures.
For example, the American Hospital Association (AHA) estimates the additional costs associated with purchasing needed PPE for hospitals and health systems was $2.4 billion over a period of just four months, from March through June 2020, or roughly $600 million per month.
One Year Later: The State of PPE
What follows is an overview of Premier’s analysis, conducted in March 2021, with a focus on the top PPE categories of masks, gowns and gloves.
N95s and Surgical Masks
N95 respirators and other masks have been among the most challenging products for healthcare providers to source and secure amid COVID-19.
Active COVID-19 cases drove N95 demand spikes of up to 17X during the first wave. Most health systems had approximately 23 days of supply on hand at the time, according to a Premier survey, but providers with active COVID-19 patients had an average of just three days’ worth. One year later, the N95 market remains constrained but not in active shortage.
Premier data shows that the average member now has about 200 days of N95 respirators on hand, even though N95 usage nearly quadrupled between April and December of 2020. This greater on-hand availability is due, in part, both to health systems’ supply conservation measures as well as stockpiling efforts during periods of case decline.
Providers also experienced the pandemic’s impact on surgical and isolation mask supply as usage tripled between June 2020 and March 2021. Most health systems today have about 45 days of these masks on hand, up from low points of approximately 30 days in July and December 2020, respectively.
Per Premier data on specific masks purchasing trends:
March 2020 saw the largest spike in N95 and KN95 mask purchasing ─ a more than 14,000 percent increase year-over-year.