Hospitals and health systems need to systematically vet medical supply manufacturers and new technologies that are new to the market—two key lessons that ECRI is passing on to healthcare leaders.
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted what supplies health systems could get—in some cases providers only learned of discontinuations after placing product orders. Even with manufacturers ramping up production, many products are still going toward national stockpiles.
ECRI says the result of having to switch products quickly can end in patient safety errors, and both clinicians and hospital executives must get better at asking for both product samples and clinical evidence for new technologies, especially during crisis mode.
New suppliers now commonly offer health systems product samples, which can be used for testing to make sure it meets industry standards. Systems should also routinely test differing product lots and deliveries because quality can vary. ECRI recommends asking for referrals to other systems that currently use the brand, country and raw materials of origin information, product specifications, Food and Drug Administration registration information, product photographs and delivery terms.
"Track and monitor country of origin for as many products as possible: several years ago, providers were unaware of the volume of intravenous solutions manufactured in Puerto Rico until it was too late," ECRI says in its report. "Monitoring triggers (e.g., weather, political disruption) in the country of origin may offer time to pivot to backup plans."
Providers should also reevaluate their relationships with distributors and group purchasing organizations that either failed or met the needs of providers—like communication and how reliable timeless were—during the pandemic.
Likewise, systems need to take a hard look at processes in place to purchase new technologies during times of crisis. ECRI said that many infrared temperature screening programs were sold at the beginning of the pandemic to reduce infection transmission, but they mostly failed to actually deliver those outcomes.
"A health system's staff and patients may be better served if leadership expends resources on measures known to work, like social distancing, wearing masks, controlling entry to facilities to separate those working in COVID-19 wards from those working in other patient care areas," ECRI says, adding that one health system in California spent $20,000 on infrared technology that ended up not working as promised.