ActionPPE, which grew out of an initiative of the Charleston County Medical Society, has evolved into a nationwide buying collective for the healthcare industry, including dental professionals. 

ActionPPE, a collective buying initiative created by doctors for doctors, announced that it has shipped over 3.4 million units of  personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, respirators, gloves, gowns, face shields, and sanitizer, to 2,606 practices representing over 10,000 doctors and 40 states. Started in March as a local effort of the Charleston County Medical Society (CCMS) to help doctors get essential PPE so they could treat patients and protect themselves from COVID-19, ActionPPE has since evolved into a nationwide buying collective for the healthcare industry, including dental professionals. 

According to the group, ActionPPE’s mission is to provide PPE and medical devices to independent doctors and practices that are not part of large hospital systems and have been disenfranchised—especially during the pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic, smaller physician offices and solo practitioners were particularly hard hit, as their traditional suppliers prioritized PPE needs of larger practices and health systems. 

Members of CCMS recognized that they were at the bottom of the supply chain. They quickly made calls and leveraged their connections to locate necessary supplies. They eventually connected with James Eron, an international management consultant with importing/exporting expertise and contacts overseas—including to FDA-registered factories in China manufacturing PPE. 

“I’m a strong believer that the people who are involved with the problem are the ones who need to come up with the solutions,” said Marcelo Hochman, MD, CCMS president. “I’m most proud that it was a group of physicians who saw a problem and created a solution that is scalable and sustainable.”

Within 10 days, ActionPPE was established, an eCommerce website launched, and an email outreach program began offering all physicians in South Carolina the opportunity to order PPE through the collective. The initial email brought in over $50,000 worth of orders. CCMS then connected with medical societies in other states, beginning with Arizona, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Today, 9 months after launch, over 40 state and national medical and related associations are participating in the collective buying group. 

Hochman, in an interview with Orthodontic Products, said the collective buying group was open to dental colleagues in South Carolina early on in response to their difficulties getting PPE as well.

“In fact, one of the earliest recipients of pro bono help from the project was a free dental clinic. The word spread within the dental communities and the project gained credibility,” said Hochman. 

Currently, only the Maine Dental Association is participating in the collective buying group. When asked if an individual dental or orthodontic practice can participate, even if their state dental or orthodontic association is not a participant, Hochman told Orthodontic Products, “Absolutely. This effort grew out of individual practices helping each other. In fact, the definition of a collective action describes the situation in which multiple individuals would all benefit from a certain action that because of associated costs is difficult for any individual to undertake and solve alone.” 

For doctors and practices that purchase through ActionPPE, there are a number of benefits. As the group points out, as part of a larger order, providers are assured that their order is fulfilled—at a time when many large distributors have no incentive to supply a smaller practice because it does not make economic sense. In addition, the group maintains that it has connected with a reputable and certified supplier of PPE, including certified Honeywell N95 masks, reducing the risk of receiving counterfeit supplies—a significant concern in the healthcare industry over the last 9 months. According to information from ActionPPE, doctors typically save 20% to 50% on their PPE costs with the collective buying initiative. 

“It’s not likely that an individual practice could generate an order for PPE/supplies/goods that, by itself, would be noticed by the factories and major distributors. Vetted quality, lower prices, and availability that otherwise would be very difficult to achieve are available to individual practitioners [through ActionPPE],” Hochman told Orthodontic Products

CCMS currently donates some of the surplus PPE supplies to free clinics and homeless shelters. Using the money from the 5% it receives on orders, CCMS is setting up five $2,000 scholarships based on merit and need for students attending the local medical university. OP