By, Brian Heyndrickx, Co-Founder & CEO, Independent Dental Solutions

In this article I will explain the impact COVID-19 has had on the availability of PPE for health care, particularly in the dental market, and how dentists will need to adapt, as we prepare to move forward into our “new normal”. 

To a dentist or health care provider,PPE is as essential to your work as the training you received in dental school.

Over the last several weeks, we have heard experts discussing what our “new normal” may look like and the impact it will have on nearly every industry. For the dental supply chain, this new norm brings significant challenges with the availability and timely delivery of PPE, especially for items made in China. Fulfilment times from China will continue to be significantly delayed and we need to be prepared for delivery times to change with very little, and in some cases, no notice.

Just as consumers are struggling to secure essential household items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies, dental practices are experiencing the same difficulties securing PEE. The COVID-19 pandemic broke the supply chain and it will take time to stabilize. Over the next several months, supply chains will need to be modified and rebuilt, as the government and other industries begin to understand the substantial impact they have on patient care.

Allocation is a term that has been used lately, but you may not know what it means. When a product is on “allocation”, it means a distributor or manufacturer determines the amount of product you will receive now by evaluating your annual usage of that product and giving you a certain percentage of that usage. Companies utilize this method so that everyone receives some product, rather than allowing practices to over order or hoard products. A simple example of allocation is toilet paper. Currently,  most stores are only allowing consumers to buy one package of toilet paper. Allocation is an effective, long-standing supply chain practice that has been utilized across all health care industries. The challenge today is that there aren’t products available to allocate – shelves are empty as soon as the product hits the shelf.

While we recognize the frustration and anxiety this situation is causing, it’s important not to panic, because you will get your PPE.  Your sales representatives, as well as distributors and manufacturers, are working hard to provide support for you during this difficult time and are doing everything they can to help you procure PPE for your practice.

The past several weeks, managing through the COVID-19 crisis, which continues to evolve on a daily basis, has provided us with some important learning moments that will allow us to adapt and move forward. The incremental impact COVID-19 has had on the supply chain in only mere weeks has been staggering. Initially, companies were able to provide estimated delivery dates, in the following weeks those delivery dates started to shift and become less and less clear. This is because currently 80 percent of all PPE is manufactured in China, which means the entire world is attempting to secure PPE from China at once. Additionally, China continues to add new laws and regulatory actions from the Ministry of Commerce, which further contributes to delays in fulfillment times.  

When COVID-19 began to impact the dental market, Midway Dental and IDS had a decision to make; sit on the sidelines and wait it out or be proactive and look for other ways we could help dentists. We chose to be proactive in a big way but knew it would not be without its own set of challenges. To do this, we needed to work quickly to identify new, innovative partnerships and resources we could utilize to help dental practices across the country. These new channels have provided additional opportunities for us to secure PPE so that everyone gets what they need. The downside is that it can be difficult to provide delivery estimates as these channels get up and running. For that reason, we are not going to provide hard dates for delivery. Instead, we will provide an estimated date range. To provide peace of mind, we will provide ongoing communication and updates throughout the process. Once the product has arrived in the United States or is in our warehouse, we will reach out with a definitive delivery date.  

Here are some things you can do to navigate your PPE orders.

  • Establish weekly email communication with your sales representative. 
  • Plan ahead and order enough PPE for as long as you can afford to do so – if you can order two months’  worth of PPE, do it. You may also want to consider placing bulk orders to mirror your patient schedule for the next few months. Don’t wait until you only have a few supplies left, while trying not to overstock products, because the cost of PPE will go down as the supply chain replenishes itself. 
  • If you decide to place smaller, more frequent orders, keep in mind that your delivery times are not guaranteed.
  • Use our PPE estimator to help your practice calculate the amount of PPE you will need, which takes into consideration your staffing and patient levels. 
  • Be prepared for PPE to continue to be an essential part of patient care moving forward, even as home test kits become available.
  • Always make sure you order from an authorized dealer and ask for the appropriate documentation before placing any orders.
  • Watch out for “brokers” who claim to have relationships to get you product. I have been in supply chain for the last 20 years, working with large hospitals and have experienced four pandemics. During those times, I received daily calls from people telling me they had a great deal for me and could get products quickly.
  • Leverage every resource you have to get what you need; no one expects you to be loyal to your primary distributor during these times. Your primary concern is to get what you need, regardless of who it comes from (as long as it’s an authorized dealer.) 
  • Thank your sales representative, they are at the frontlines of the supply chain and are working diligently to support your needs to get your practice back up and running. 

The importance of supply chain in providing patient care has never been more evident. For the first time in history, the White House invited the top supply chain executives to help address the critical PPE situation we are facing. In the dental market, supply chain has often been an afterthought, however, in our “new normal”, supply chain needs to be top of mind for every dentist in the country.  

Change is always difficult, and it is a lot to absorb, however I wanted to provide an update on our current situation and some strategies to help practices prepare to reopen in the coming weeks and months. While it may not happen overnight, the supply chain will stabilize, and we can all learn from this and become better for it. 

If you have any questions, or are in need of additional support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Midway Dental sales teammate. You can also contact IDS for support by calling 800-975-1651 or emailing [email protected].

Stay safe, be well, and please take care of one another.

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