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Finances, Masks, Vaccines, and Energy: Learning Lessons From Texas Healthcare

6/15/2021

A white silhouette of the state of Texas with an orange medical cross over its center.

As usual, Texas is a microcosm of what's happening across the United States. Allow the triumphs and mistakes of Texas's healthcare providers to teach you the lessons that our home state learned the hard way.

The COVID-19 caseload might be going down across the country and the state, but that doesn't mean that suddenly Texans are healthy. In fact, Texans are among the least healthy population in the United States. Before you're relieved because you're reading this from the safety of somewhere else, beware: the states with the worst health are also experiencing the biggest population booms. 

But it's not all bad news. Some Texas hospitals have managed to thrive throughout the pandemic and after. Let's look at a couple of specific areas where you can take away some lessons from exemplary healthcare providers. 

 

Finances

Seeing that some Texas healthcare systems are now able to give their employees raises and increase their PTO is encouraging. It's incredible, actually, because we've seen how well it worked when the California government tried to force hospitals to give their employees bonuses. 

We'd love to think that every hospital would be able to reward its employees, but we've seen so many other stories in the past year of hospitals struggling to pay their bills and being forced to close. That makes the community less healthy and less wealthy (by putting a bunch of people out of work and probably further into debt), and less wealth leads to worse health, so the community is worse and worse off. 

Believe us, we wish supply chain analytics were more of a financial magic wand. But even if better inventory management can't solve every budgetary problem, it can help relieve some of the burden. Every hospital has excess inventory that they could turn into savings. Imagine the bonuses (or the jobs) a hospital could offer after saving millions of dollars. 

See How Z5 Saved $16 Million From Expiration

Masks

Within a week of announcing that they were relaxing requirements for mask-wearing, representatives for an Odessa hospital had to announce that they were reinstating their previous mask policy

This kind of back-and-forth seems almost unavoidable for providers nationwide. Hospitals will insist on protecting their patients based on the best available medical evidence. Governments will insist on their policies based on the prevailing political winds in their communities. It's probably a safe bet, though, that hospitals will need to continue having a high amount of masks available for their staff, as well as the members of the communities who show up to the hospital without one. 

How does prolonged mask use - whether by an internal mandate or by following governmental guidance - affect the story we just shared about mask production and orders going down? We suspect that demand for PPE will still be higher than it ever was before 2020, even if it goes down a little bit from where it was at the height of 2020. And we know for a fact that hospitals need help offloading some of the PPE - especially gloves, gowns, and other non-mask supplies - that they stocked up on. And in the process, hospitals with extra can help the hospitals who are still affected by shortages

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Vaccines

The vast majority of healthcare professionals - clinical and administrative alike - plan on getting vaccinated if they haven't gotten the shot already. But the voices of the most actively resistant to vaccination are going to be louder because they feel the most unheard. 

A small but vocal group of Houston hospital workers have protested their employer's vaccination mandate for all employees. Some of their complaints are reasonable and based around caution, and those will echo in similar protests in similar providers. They certainly lost some ground when they invoked Nuremberg Code to say that the government is conducting medical experiments on them. (Pro tip: if you want your complaints to be taken seriously, don't compare what's happening to you to the Holocaust.) 

Here again we bump into guidelines established by institutions for their own employees and patients VS guidelines established by governments for the entire community. As a general rule, hospitals will have to be at least as stringent about their safety standards as their community demands, but probably more. And never less. 

After a year of traveling across the country to support hospitals, Z5's supply chain pros have complied with precautions and protocols of all types. We'd be interested to know what the rules are around quarantine, PPE, and vaccines at your facilities (and happy to follow them, if not be even more careful). 

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Energy

And though we didn't expect to be writing about power outages resulting from a neglected infrastructure when we first drafted this article, maybe we should have. Because we Texans once again find ourselves in danger of widespread power outages due to demand that overtaxes the grid's ability to supply. (As if we didn't already have enough disruption to the usual flow of the usual supplies.) 

Of course - between prioritized grids and individual building generators - healthcare providers are supposed to be exempt from these kinds of issues. But no solution is a permanent solution to the problem except "permanently solving the problem." 

 

And that's a problem. Right? You probably don't like being told: "Just fix it." Plenty of communication is required for people to understand both what's expected and how it can be accomplished. 

We can help with the supply chain optimization part of the problem, at least. Need to adjust the value of your PPE and offload your excess? We know just the hospitals who want what you have. 

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Alex Diamond

Written by Alex Diamond

Raised in the armpit of East Texas before escaping to the civilization of Austin, Alex is an author and former radio/podcast personality. If you ever run into him, ask him about the day he split his pants in front of the Lone Ranger.