Health industry collaboration

With the pandemic came a critical need for affordable and reliable Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). While large medical groups had easier access to bulk supplies at lower costs, smaller providers struggled to meet order minimums to drive prices down, or sometimes to even find any PPE at all.

To solve this issue a pilot program was kicked off by several Washington healthcare associations provider organizations representing dentists, hospitals, doctors, senior care and housing organizations, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, and community health clinics. The committee was supported by the Washington Healthcare Forum and OneHealthPort. The goal of the pilot was to test the feasibility of a group purchase made by many different organizations that banded together to make large bulk orders.

With the possibility of so many small organizations potentially involved, many locations across the Pacific Northwest, and the bulk of product ordered, the logistics were challenging. The newly formed PPE Purchasing Co-op committee asked Aukema & Associates to aid in communications, fine tune the order process details, craft all communications to participants, and finally to report the results of the pilot and suggestions on future orders for the Co-op.

The first step was to interview suppliers. The committee identified a new, but reliable, supplier who was willing to test out the process, help identify crucial but also available and vetted products, and support the PPE Purchasing Co-op through the purchase and delivery process. Once secured, we collectively worked with the vendor and the Co-op leadership to establish guidelines for participation, order minimums, the payment process, and timeline.

We created a strategic set of communications to possible groups to invite them to participate and clearly delineating the process. This included direct emails, pre-order surveys, information about costs and payment, and working with the vendor on forms and the user experience on their end. The order stayed open for a set time, and once completed and all supplies delivered, we provided a full report on the pilot.

The pilot was a resounding success with more than 300 organizations participating – including chiropractors, pharmacists, denturists, optometrists, and other healthcare providers who joined – for a total order of nearly $700,000. The overwhelming response drove down prices from initial estimates but more importantly got necessary and high-quality PPE to medical professions who desperately needed it in the middle of a global pandemic.

We continued to help the Co-op through future orders, updating communications as the order process was refined, working with the vendor, and advising on additional communications.