Watch the AMA's daily COVID-19 update, with insights from AMA leaders and experts about the pandemic.
In today’s COVID-19 update, AMA Chief Experience Officer talks with leaders Kristen Tinney and Anne Miller about the AMA’s collaboration with Project N95, an effort to get PPE to physicians.
Learn more at the AMA COVID-19 resource center.
- Anne Miller, executive director, Project N95
- Kristen Tinny, vice president, Member Programs, AMA
Unger: Hello, this is the American Medical Association's COVID-19 Update. Today, we're talking about a second collaboration between the AMA and a non-profit called Project N95 to help bring much needed PPE to physicians. I'm joined today by Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95 in Burlington, Vermont, and Kristen Tinney, the AMA vice president of member programs in Chicago. I'm Todd Unger, AMA's chief experience officer in Chicago. Ms. Miller, one of the things that characterize the early part of this pandemic was the very, very loud and unified outcry about the lack of PPE. We saw the hashtag, #getmePPE. Very, very urgent situation. Some of that seems to have subsided a little bit, yet we know there's still a problem with PPE. Talk about that now.
Miller: Yeah, we see there's a really great shortage of PPE in the United States. I think there's been a lot of recent visibility to the fact that we have a lot of COVID cases and a little less so to the PPE, but we know that as cases increased in the United States, that access to PPE remains limited in very many parts of the country and that the need for Project N95's work really has never been greater. Based on the things that we've seen in our current marketplace, we believe that there are shortages of certain types of PPE that we will see persisting throughout the winter, to the extent that the cases continue to spread. If there's some change in government policy, that may alleviate the shortage, but we expect that there continue to be shortages.
Unger: Ms. Miller, do you think that that shortage of PPE is hitting small practices differently than it is larger practices?
Miller: Yeah. Smaller health care practices, those in at-risk or underrepresented communities in particular, will continue to face challenges in sourcing the PPE they need at the prices they can afford. Either they can't buy at all because the minimum order quantities are too high or at low order quantities the prices are super high.
Unger: Talk about Project N95 and how it's helping to fill those gaps in supply.
Miller: Sure. Project N95 is the national clearing house for critical PPE and pandemic related medical supplies. We protect health care and frontline workers by matching them to verified suppliers with vetted products. We started back in March. We're a nonprofit rapid response organization. We really care deeply about driving transparency in the market, procurement best practices and about equitable distribution. One of the things that Project N95 did was we created a marketplace that enables frontline workers and health care organizations to purchase exactly what they need through our platform. We are non-profit, so we're not here to profit from the pandemic. We know that the need exists. In a recent collaboration with 16 medical societies, more than 5,900 physicians and laboratory professionals participated, buying more than 727,000 units of PPE. Project N95 is basically here to help.
Unger: And talk about what you've done since you started back in May. That's a lot more units that have been distributed now.
Miller: Yeah. Since May 15th, which is when we actually started keeping track, we have delivered more than 2.1 million units of PPE to help protect more than 185,000 health care and frontline workers.
Unger: That's amazing. Ms. Tinney, the AMA is partnering again with Project N95 to offer PPE to AMA members for a second time. Can you tell us more about that partnership, how it began?
Tinney: Yeah. Thanks Todd. To support our physicians during the PPE shortage, collaborating with Project N95 allowed us to reserve quality, certified PPE exclusively for our members to purchase at bulk pricing with no minimum. Our first collaboration took place last summer, and since then, the COVID-19 cases have soared and many physicians are still struggling to get enough equipment, which is why we're collaborating with Project N95 again. And this time, for a limited time, AMA members will have the opportunity to purchase PPE and our deadline to submit an order is November 23rd, at 3:00 P.M., Central.
Unger: Ms. Miller. I understand you're making some changes and improvements to your marketplace since our last collaboration. Can you take us through those and the thinking behind them?
Miller: Sure. We recognized that we were in an acute situation in the beginning and we were working rapidly to solve that problem. And as it's gone into a chronic situation, we knew that we needed to move to a more buyer-centric, buyer-focused experience to serve the large, ongoing need for PPE. We had feedback from the frontline health care community, and we've been working to set up a new marketplace platform that increases our capacity to serve many more people and to have more operating efficiencies. One example is that it used to take in our marketplace 48 hours for an order to settle. And now, we can just buy it and check out. We've done a lot to make it easier to get the PPE that you need so that people can focus on doing their job.
Unger: Ms. Miller, you mentioned something earlier about trust, and obviously, this is a big issue with PPE procurement. We know there've been scams and phishing emails and promises of PPE. How does Project N95 established trust with its partners and make sure, to be able to verify the quality of the PPE?
Miller: Yeah, that's a really good question. And it's something that from the very beginning, we've understood that we're in a trust exercise with our customers, that people, some people had never even purchased PPE before, so they didn't know about what to buy, how to verify its authenticity, who to turn to as a supplier. We've sought to solve all of those problems. It's really important to us that people know that we are the trusted source, that we will stand behind any problem that you have and make it right. Really Project N95 is here to help.
Unger: Ms. Tinney, can you talk about the AMA's approach in terms of what's going to be offered and when?
Tinney: Yeah, and just talking about quality and authenticity, it was extremely important part of our process and we worked really closely... As Ms. Miller pointed out, we worked really closely with Project N95 to identify and vet suppliers and manufacturers that we believe could meet the expected costs, the quality and delivery. AMA reviewed and approved all of the items that we're making available to our members, which include two different types of N95 respirator masks, disposable face shields, and disposable isolation gowns. The masks are expected to ship on December 21st and our face shields and gowns are expected to ship on December 8th. If you're interested in finding out more details about the PPE, along with the photos, you can find more of that information on our website.
Unger: Ms. Tinney, just in closing, why is it so important that the AMA is once again taking this step and what do members who are interested need to do to get started?
Tinney: This collaboration is so important to frontline workers, as well as practice-based physicians. Even an office-based setting can pose a potential for spread, and so while many offices still have not been able to open or open as fully as they would like, because they don't have enough PPE, from the beginning the AMA has strongly advocated to the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other key players to ensure that the necessary quantities of PPE are produced and distributed where they're most in demand. And we think our collaboration with Project N95 takes that a step further. With winter months approaching COVID-19 cases, physicians absolutely must have enough PPE to protect themselves and their patients, and we really hope that this collaboration with Project N95 provide some additional support at this critical time. For members that are interested, they can go to our website to get started. We have an FAQ to answer additional questions and additional support if needed. Members will have to sign into their AMA account or create a new one to get the members only pricing.
Unger: Well, Ms. Miller, Ms. Tinney, I want to say a heartfelt thanks for the work that you're doing to make sure that physicians have the PPE that they need during this surge and beyond. That's it for today's COVID-19 Update. We'll be back tomorrow with another segment. For resources on COVID-19 and for access to the Project N95 collaboration, please visit the AMA site. Go to ama-assn.org/covid-19. Thanks for joining us. Please take care.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this video are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.