What to look for when sourcing clinical personal protective equipment

In wake of COVID-19, the surging demand for PPE led many healthcare providers in Australia and New Zealand to look beyond their existing suppliers for their sourcing needs. With local supply chains overwhelmed, many healthcare organisations turned to lesser-known suppliers, many of them located overseas. This approach brought with it a host of new risks. When dealing with an unknown supplier, especially if they are located overseas, it can be hard to distinguish legitimate organisations from unscrupulous actors and scammers.

But there are steps you can take to limit the risks. Let’s look at the specific actions hospitals, clinics and allied healthcare organisations can take to reliably source high-quality PPE.

1. Always benchmark the prices

PPE prices can vary significantly even week to week. This means you need to do your due diligence on the current prices of PPE equipment on a regular basis. While benchmarking prices from different suppliers is good practice, keep in mind that price should not be the only consideration. Your supplier’s ability to meet demand and ensure consistency of supply is also important, even if that comes with a slightly higher price tag.

2. Check specs and quality certificates

Make sure to call your supplier and ask about the certifications and quality guarantees their products carry. If their product certifications aren’t readily available or their rep doesn’t seem to know much about them, that’s usually a red flag. Make sure to thoroughly explain your PPE specs and requirements to your supplier. They might be able to make some great recommendations you had not previously considered.

3. Order test samples

Getting samples is important, not only to ensure the supplier has the products they claim, but also to ensure quality compliance. When trying out a new supplier, or even a new product from a trusted supplier, it’s wise to get a sample first to confirm any product claims. For things like masks or respirators, for example, you should have several colleagues try them on to ensure they provide a good seal. Testing for build quality, materials and usability are just as important as certifications and meeting compliance requirements.

4. Vet your supplier

When considering overseas, new or relatively unknown suppliers, watch out for red flags like claims about quality, prices or availability that seem too good to be true. Demands for high upfront payments, lack of documentation, or unusual business practices (like asking for payment to be made to overseas intermediary parties) are usually the hallmarks of an unreliable supplier.

It’s also a good idea to check the supplier’s fulfilment track record. Can they give references from other healthcare organisations that they have supplied? Do they have a good success rate of delivering on time and to budget? Are they responsive? Do they have good customer support?

5. Tap into your network

The medical community in Australia and New Zealand is small and closely connected. Chances are that someone in your network has worked or is currently working with your intended supplier, and they should be able to give you a clearer picture of their pros and cons. Do take their input with a pinch of salt however: not everyone has the same experience with a given supplier, and this is especially true if different product categories are involved.


Every healthcare organisation will have highly specific needs from their PPE supplier, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But you can lower the risk by partnering with reputable PPE suppliers that have a history of serving the ANZ market.

For more information, click here.

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