“In 2020, COVID-19 disrupted the healthcare industry supply chain, including durable medical equipment (DME) required by often at-risk patients in their homes to manage chronic conditions and other medical issues,” points out Marsha Flores-Harris, product manager for FDB Prizm, a medical device knowledge base platform from First Databank.
She points to supply interuptions as noted in a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on DME items include medical devices such as oxygen equipment, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BIPAP) machines, nebulizers and other respiratory assistive devices (RAD). “The OIG report’s findings were echoed in a survey of more than 500 DME companies that found, in addition to personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilator shortages, supply chain interruptions also have occurred during the pandemic for items such as oxygen equipment (81%), CPAPs and RADs (53%), and nebulizers (49%),” she shared. “Nearly three-quarters (74%) of suppliers reported delays of two months or more during the pandemic for such equipment, and 67% reported increased costs.”
Flores-Harris believes that in 2021, “we will see an increasing focus on improving the eprescribing process within EMR/EHR systems. Since these systems currently do not support eprescribing for DME items, including critical medical devices, clinicians are forced to hand-write and fax their orders to DME providers. This challenge can cause errors and unnecessary manual work, which equals increased costs. In addition, we may begin to see more hospital systems launch their own DME dispensing organizations, to give them better visibility and control over servicing their patients. This approach could cut down on the 2- to 4-week minimum wait times that many providers experience with DME dispensing organizations before patients are provided with needed devices.
“Addressing this issue should be a priority, because delays DME delays could logically mean poorer population health, including increases in emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations due to chronic condition exacerbations,” she said. “If patients do not have access to critical DME such as nebulizers or oxygen equipment, they could face a costly medical crisis.”