Supply Management Strategies for Offsetting IV Bag Shortages

Normally, the infusion therapy device market has been considered stable with intravenous (IV) sets maintaining a level of saturation required to meet the needs of the health care sector. But as COVID-19 continues to overwhelm even the most prepared health care systems, increased demand for IV administration foresees a shortage of IV supplies —  including IV bags themselves.

In fact, major manufacturers of IV bags have already begun to place allocations on their bag supplies — making it more critical than ever for health care systems to practice aggressive supply shortage-management.

Effectively Managing an IV Bag Shortages

IV bags represent a hospital staple: before COVID, the clinical staff automatically connected patients to a saline-filled IV bag upon hospital admittance. In today’s climate, delivering care requires a more economical approach. IV bags should be reserved for the most critically ill patients and those whose only option to receive hydration, medication, or nutrition relies on IV administration. [1]

Supply shortage-management forces providers to assess alternate delivery methods on a patient-by-patient basis. This may include switching patients to oral medications, increasing the use of subcutaneous injections, or pushing an IV line using a syringe rather than an IV set. [1] And while IV bags come in various sizes with different levels of demand, health care providers should consider transferring saline solutions into smaller, more readily available bags and prepare medications themselves rather than depending on pre-bagged solutions. [1]

Offsetting Shortages with Administrative Changes

An increase in IV administration associated with coronavirus hospitalizations has strained the supply of all IV-related components in a “trickle-down effect.” A shortage of IV pumps resulted in the adoption of IV bags as an alternative for delivering medicine, exasperating the supply line further by creating a greater reliance on IV bags. [2]

The increased usage of IV bags may be offset by changes to administration policies. For example, the CDC recommends infusion sets be changed at least every 7 days, but many hospitals have policies requiring their care providers to change IV bags every 24 to 96 hours. During a supply shortage, administration policies following a more frequent schedule should allow for an extension beyond 96 hours. [2]

Other Contributing Factors

Not only attributed to COVID alone, but natural disasters this year have also affected the IV bag shortage. Hurricanes Irma and Maria had a notable impact on IV bag supply lines —   by damaging major manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico that produce IV bags —  unleashing the first widespread and persistent shortage of IV bags in the United States. [1,3]

Hospitals always need to prepare for potential shortages in medical supplies — even those thought to be highly saturated. In a way, the devastation wrought by hurricane season has prompted new protocols and preparedness concerning IV bags —  allowing hospitals to better respond with bold shortage-management strategies in the COVID era.



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