Hospital leaders agree COVID revealed 'significant' supply chain issues. Less than half say they've plugged the gaps

Man checking boxes on a conveyor belt
Insufficient stockpiles, unreliable supplier, poor inventory visibility and other supply chain issues rose to the fore during COVID-19, leaders from 100 hospitals said in a poll conducted during late August. (Getty/Paul Bradbury)

Hospital executives and supply chain managers broadly agree the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed “significant” vulnerabilities in their organizations' supply chains, yet the majority of those responding to a recently released survey said hospitals should be doing more to close those gaps.

Across a sample of 100 organizations polled in late August, 93% of respondents said their groups have taken steps to address pandemic-exposed shortcomings such as insufficient supply stockpiles, unreliable suppliers, poor visibility into inventory and staff safety risks.

However, 62% of respondents said their organizations aren't doing enough to expose those vulnerabilities, with the same percentage also saying they believe fewer than half of all hospitals have taken the appropriate steps to protect against a future disruption, according to the poll conducted by Sage Growth Partners on behalf of inventory management platform vendor Syft.

Members of the C-suite may be underestimating their handle on the issue, Syft wrote in the survey.

While 79% of these respondents said their hospitals manage their supply chains “extremely well or very well,” only 64% of vice presidents, directors and managers in charge of the supply chain and managing materials indicated the same.

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The recent supply chain issues also appear to be “a key factor” in burnout and retention across the country’s hospitals, Syft wrote.

Forty-three percent of respondents said their hospitals lost nurses as a result of supply shortages or challenges, according to the poll, while 12% and 7% said it contributed to the departures of non-surgeon physicians and surgeons, respectively.

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, some hospitals have taken steps to re-supply stockpiles and address problems such as unreliable suppliers," Todd Plesko, CEO of Syft, said in a statement. "However, our research reveals that most hospitals haven't yet moved beyond these basic strategies to implement lasting changes that will fortify the supply chain, such as improving real-time visibility into supplies and implementing AI and demand forecasting tools. This raises alarming questions regarding ongoing supply chain vulnerabilities that could drastically impact patient safety and staff retention moving forward."

Recent supply chain issues inside and out of healthcare are to blame for a recent jump in supply expenses, according to Kaufman Hall’s September hospital flash report. More recent weeks have had short-supplied hospitals putting out the call for crutch, walker and wheelchair donations along with warnings of drug shortages.