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How to Tell You’ve Had a Supply Chain Breakdown – and What to Do About It


By Bill Axon

As news began to surface in the earliest days of 2020 about the emergence of the coronavirus, we weren’t just watching for updates. Because we knew right away the impact it would have on our daily work to keep critical patient-care equipment at the ready, we launched into action to get our hospital partners as prepared as possible. After all, this was a respiratory illness, and health systems would need ventilators and parts to keep those life-saving devices working and available.

Immediately, we ran the metrics across our healthcare partners on scheduled Preventative Maintenance for ventilators over the next six to 10 months, because we expected a market run on those supplies. Starting with those results, we ordered what we projected we’d need. A smart procurement program is proactive, as we were, because the industry almost overnight reported backlogs for both devices and service parts.

So it’s no surprise that supply chain breakdowns are the second-leading cause of worry for hospital administrators during the ongoing pandemic, after concerns of their own staff falling ill.

At TKA, I oversee our centralized procurement operation. To be honest, in general, rolling HTM into a centralized approach isn’t often the best option for most internal healthcare organizations, because they don’t have the resources and capabilities to operate effectively for such specialized buying. When I took on this function for TKA, the first thing I did was structure our procurement program and processes in a way that drives the most value for our hospital partners, who trust us to work smartly and keep their medical technology running. This works for TKA, because we are handling procurement for hospitals across our footprint, leading to efficiencies in time and costs that an individual hospital simply can’t generate.

We know that every part we touch as biomeds goes into a device that provides essential patient diagnostics and treatment, with some equipment delivering life-saving care. Our success starts with our skills to keep equipment healthy and repairing it when something goes wrong, but we also rely on an efficient supply chain to deliver the right parts quickly when we need them to do our jobs.

But when your supply chain goes down, your risk of keeping patient care equipment at the ready goes up. Here are some big clues to keep an eye on:

  • Communication breakdowns with your suppliers.
  • Parts don’t arrive quick enough.
  • You receive the wrong parts.
  • Vendors don’t test and send broken parts.
  • You’re wasting both parts and money.

What TKA Delivers

Do you know what to do when you find these issues emerging in your program? Download our breakdown resource guide for tips on what to watch for along with recommendations on how to improve the health, efficiency and effectiveness of your supply chain. When this fundamental part of your hospital operations isn’t humming smoothly, you run the risk of not meeting your patient-care mission.

Bill Axon is TKA’s director of national parts procurement, as well as our regional director for Texas.


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