When a disaster strikes, the healthcare system counts on manufacturers, who are the first link in the supply chain. Disasters can affect the operations of manufacturers and their facilities’ supply of products in countless ways- whether it be the result of a disease outbreak that drains stock or a hurricane that destroys a hospital’s supplies. No matter the situation, manufacturers work to make their medicines and medical supplies available to those downstream in the supply chain so that patients ultimately are not impacted. The stories below highlight the efforts of manufacturers to anticipate and respond to a crisis.
Disasters can create many roadblocks for distributors, who serve as the second step in the supply chain. Distributors purchase drugs and medical products in bulk from manufacturers, and meticulously maintain large stocks in strategic locations across the country. Through fast-acting reallocation of these products to those in need, distributors quickly become Heroes during disasters. They work tirelessly to gain access to healthcare facilities amidst the potential chaos of a disaster to ensure that critical deliveries are not disrupted. Read about their stories here.
As Hurricanes Harvey and Irma approached, AmerisourceBergen staged healthcare supplies to support at-risk areas. With the supplies in place, AmerisourceBergen utilized many unconventional methods to deliver them directly to patients and caregivers after the storm hit. In several cases, local couriers no longer had a vehicle to make their deliveries due to the flooding. AmerisourceBergen responded by sourcing rental trucks for them from as far away as Oklahoma and Kansas.
Using two-way radios, these couriers communicated with AmerisourceBergen scout drivers to find the best pathways to take for completing their deliveries to hospitals, pharmacies and clinics.
Employees of AmerisourceBergen committed tremendous time and resources to these efforts, using duck boats and helicopters in many cases to navigate the destruction and deliver supplies directly to patients. In response to reports of major hospitals turning cancer patients away due to inaccessibility caused by flooding, one AmerisourceBergen employee drove over 900 miles to deliver oncology supplies to alternate medical facilities in the area, allowing them to provide critical cancer treatments for those affected patients.
While the Texas Gulf Coast was battered by Harvey, AmerisourceBergen was moving temperature-sensitive and other specialty medications into the region. With a planned helicopter supply flight bound for Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, ASD/Cubixx employees leveraged foresight and regional threat expertise to include on that flight a suite of soon-to-be-necessary medical supplies such as tetanus boosters, snake anti-venom, and rabies vaccines.
This proved useful in a situation which eventually brought flesh-eating infections, venomous insects and reptiles, and diseased mammals all into close contact with the survivors of the storm.
In addition, the Cubixx/ASD Healthcare team was able to monitor inventory at 10 other Cubixx locations across greater Houston and transfer those products as needed. AmerisourceBergen can deliver lifesaving medications to a disaster area even if a courier is unavailable, through special agreements permitting first responders to deliver products for them, and other emergency flight delivery arrangements.
Cardinal Health, a global, integrated healthcare services and products company, takes its responsibility to maintain service to its customers during crisis situations very seriously.
One example of this is during the 2017 hurricane season when Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) were hit hard by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. A primary pharmaceutical and medical distributor in the region, Cardinal Health played a major role in moving relief products and ensuring the company’s many customers – and their patients – were able to access these much-needed supplies during a very difficult time. The company’s extensive distribution presence proved especially important in the USVI, which faced extensive damage from the hurricanes and remained without power in most areas for two months.
Not only was Cardinal Health able to partner with vendors and ensure local shipping requirements were met, it was able to maintain the integrity of its healthcare supply chain while managing the complexities of access to healthcare during the emergency. When the company’s warehouses were damaged, repairs were made swiftly to ensure temperature and pest controls were consistently monitored and met all appropriate standards. Importantly, the company preserved its cold chain process and standards of integrity with medications to ensure that customers were not affected during this “last mile” of the supply chain.
Finally, in support of these recovery efforts, Cardinal Health employees went far above and beyond their normal “call of duty,” even while many of them were rebuilding their own lives. Many employees worked closely with hospitals and acute care facilities to ensure patients had access to care and medications throughout the recovery efforts. Since telephone and other electronic communications were not available, Cardinal Health employees physically visited hospital customers right away to assess their needs and help them replenish supplies. Paper forms were used and brought back to Cardinal Health facilities to process them and deliver supplies that same day. In addition, some employees even worked in customers’ pharmacies to support patients who needed direct access to healthcare supplies during this natural disaster.
Cardinal Health employees came to work each day during this time – often under very challenging circumstances – because they understood the important role they played in providing healthcare to Puerto Rico and the USVI.
Source: Healthcare Ready interview
Pfizer operates extensively on the island of Puerto Rico, with many patients receiving prescription assistance through Pfizer RxPathways’ largest access program, the Pfizer Patient Assistance Program. With Hurricane Maria looming and the prospect of a health crisis seeming likely, Pfizer took steps to activate its standard natural disaster protocols so that any of its patients ultimately impacted by the storm could receive early or replacement medication and could have medicine shipper to wherever they were.
In the devastation following, however, Pfizer quickly found that its standard relief efforts would not be enough to adequately assist. With shipping carriers down and delivery services significantly disrupted, Pfizer needed to modify its program and explore alternate channels to reach its patients, and they turned to Healthcare Ready for help.
Using the Rx Open map and Healthcare Ready contacts, Pfizer tracked down operational pharmacies which carried their products and coordinated efforts to ensure patients could easily retrieve their medicines there. Pfizer and Healthcare Ready used radio, social media, and paper fliers to widely communicate the status and locations of these pharmacies as part of a vast messaging campaign to inform affected individuals of the emergency expansion of the Pfizer Patient Assistance Program into local retail pharmacies.
This joint effort went far beyond simply reaching out to a large chain’s corporate headquarters for pharmacy status and location. The role that local and community pharmacies played – unified with Pfizer, Healthcare Ready, and many more – cannot be overstated, as these businesses and individuals provided the ground-level mobilization to help ensure patients had continued and uninterrupted access to their Pfizer medicines.