At the American Society for Healthcare Engineering's 2008 conference in National Harbor, MD, Mills suggested neighboring hospitals get together, compare their MOUs, and collectively make a series of calls to a vendor to test the agreements simultaneously.
Mills told an anecdote about a city water plant that went out of service: Several hospitals in the area had MOUs with a sole vendor to receive 10,000-gallon water bladders as a back-up. At 2 a.m. the next day, a manager at one of the hospitals called the vendor about the bladder and had the item delivered at 6 a.m. The other hospitals called later asking for their bladders, only to find the only available bladder had already gone out, Mills said.
There is much talk these days among hospital emergency planners about the need to engage community partners when developing hospital response procedures. Typically, these partners include police and fire departments and local health departments.
But hospitals should also put vendors on the list of community entities to plan with, particularly when it comes to supply chains. Talking ahead of time with vendors may help eliminate bottle-necks in the demand for supplies when an emergency or H1N1 outbreak occurs.