Washington’s health care community works together to buy PPE as a group

A Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) purchasing co-op in Washington has helped 675 health care organizations buy enough PPE to remain open and receive patients. The co-op delivered thousands of boxes of PPE to dental offices, doctor offices, assisted living facilities, and many in an effort to respond to PPE shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.



The group has helped organizations purchase approximately 275,000 individual units of N95 respirators, nearly 2.1 million individual units of surgical masks and more than 15,000 hospital gowns.

The Washington PPE Purchasing Co-op formed in August when the Governor’s office and private sector health care leaders determined a collaborative purchasing agreement could amend existing shortages. The co-op made its first large-group purchase of PPE in November.

By leveraging group buying power, the co-op helped organizations of all sizes purchase PPE. This allowed health care providers that aren’t on the front lines to acquire the equipment, despite restrictions.

“This unique moment in time called for us to come together as a local healthcare community,” said Cassie Sauer, chief executive officer of the Washington State Hospital Association in a statement. “We all wanted the same thing: to ensure people continue to have access to health care services they need and to keep the people delivering that care protected from infection.”

The group partnered with PPE.Exchange, an online PPE marketplace in Seattle that sources critical personal protective equipment directly from manufacturers and places group orders for bulk pricing. The PPE.Exchange was formed in April 2020 to help combat issues in the PPE market, such as fraudulent products, price gouging and requirements for large minimum orders. 

“To maintain safety, more PPE is needed now than ever before — in all types of care settings,” said Bracken Kilpack, executive director of the Washington State Dental Association in a statement. “But how is the typical small health care facility supposed to navigate the complicated world of PPE manufacturing, vet the good from the bad and get what they need at a reasonable price? It was daunting; so, the associations joined together and stepped in as a collaborative to help our members. Our first job was to find a vendor who knew the ins and outs of PPE purchasing and had a direct line to vetted manufacturers.”

The co-op started with six associations that included dentists, assisted living and nursing facilities, hospitals, doctors and community health clinics, along with MultiCare. Six other associations then joined, including chiropractors, pharmacists, optometrists, denturists and other health care provider associations. 

These associations took care of the coordination of the purchases and were able to support the distribution of the supplies. 

“Once it all came together, we were really excited about the potential to band together to drive down the price of PPE, especially for the smaller organizations throughout the state,” Kilpack said. “Whether there will be future orders depends on the need, but it is great to know that we can do this together for the good of all.”