New technology platform launches to connect healthcare providers with PPE suppliers

Think tank United States of Care has launched a new clearinghouse to help connect healthcare workers to medical equipment suppliers.

Healthcare workers are facing a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, surgical masks, isolation gowns, and ventilators.

Minneapolis-based USofCare worked with U.S. Digital Response Team to launch Project N95, a platform that connects healthcare providers who need access to PPE with manufacturers who can meet demand.

Within weeks, millions of units of PPE will be available to healthcare providers, according to Project N95.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating dangerously low supplies of PPE, causing healthcare providers to rely on makeshift alternatives that offer minimal—if any—protection from infection. Manufacturers, recognizing the need and seeking avenues to help providers, use the clearinghouse to share information about their products, order thresholds, and how quickly they can ship supplies to providers, according to USofCare.

RELATED: Fears grow over federal ventilator supply as coronavirus cases mount

State governors across the country say their demands for more masks and other medical equipment are not being met, forcing them to compete with each other for critical supplies in the coronavirus pandemic, according to CNBC.

Local and state officials are urging President Donald Trump to enact the Defense Production Act, which would allow the private sector to ramp up the manufacturing of PPE to mitigate the national shortage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a strategic reserve of N95 masks from which it has begun to distribute to states that are especially in need.

Manufacturers are ramping up production and 3M says it's shipping half a million masks to New York and Seattle, with arrivals starting today, according to the Washington Post.

“As healthcare providers run out of personal protective equipment, we’re beginning to see a wild west approach to filling supplies, like purchasing gardening masks and wearing bandannas,” said Andy Slavitt, USofCare board chair and former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator.

RELATED: The biggest worry for hospitals, healthcare workers: Protective equipment

“While I applaud the commitment to treat those infected with COVID-19, the makeshift approach cannot contain the spread of infection. Project N95 is a game-changer—connecting those who need masks and other PPE supplies with those who can supply it, allows healthcare workers to focus on the most important thing: healing patients," Slavitt said.

The Project N95 team has been coordinating with global manufacturers who can produce and meet high demand.

U.S. Digital Response was created by former government chief technology officers, academic leaders, and technology corporate executives.

"We are ready to work with the federal and state governments and those on the frontlines of healthcare to determine where demand is and where it is most urgent, and to aggregate that demand so it works with suppliers—allowing for transparency and efficiency,” said Andrew Stroup of Project N95. Stroup is the founder and CEO of LVRG, a vendor relationship management platform designed to make collaborative and informed purchasing decisions.

The project also is looking for government partners at the city, county and state levels to help aggregate demand from hospitals.

"We need local points of contact that can aggregate funding into single purchase orders of over 100,000 units, serve as a shipping destination, and/or distribute. We will share with you the data we are collecting from healthcare institutions in your jurisdiction and the suppliers we are sourcing," the Project N95 team said on its website.