EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern University is collaborating with Chicago tech startup Rheaply to launch the Emergency Resource Exchange (ERx), a new platform to help connect organizations with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical medical supplies.
ERx will initially focus on the state of Illinois. To join the 21 organizations that are already using the platform, users can sign up for free.
As COVID-19 continues to spread among communities around the world, there is dire need for PPE, such as N95 masks and gowns, as well as other medical items, such as testing kits and ventilators. Yet many health care providers and first responders are facing supply shortages, forcing them to improvise with materials around them that are less safe. This not only hampers their work to fight the virus but puts these essential workers in danger. With only 10% of the national stockpile of medical supplies now remaining, it is clear that the need for supplies has become critical.
ERx aims to address this issue by helping direct these supplies to the places where the need is most urgent. The platform, an adaptation of Rheaply’s flagship Asset Exchange Manager (AxM)TM, allows healthcare providers and other essential workers to quickly request the items they need and aids suppliers across Illinois in the donation of resources such as surplus equipment or newly manufactured goods.
“Our goal at Rheaply has always been to help make organizations access and use supplies more efficiently,” said Northwestern alumnus Garry Cooper, CEO and co-founder of Rheaply. “Now, with COVID-19 and the threat it poses, we saw a pressing need to create a solution that removes the barriers of supply chain and procurement processes. We are working hard to get more manufacturers on this platform so we can make even more supplies available to the people who need them most.”
“The most powerful aspect of this work is that everyone involved — Rheaply, Northwestern, and (consulting firm) Kin + Carta — are all focused solely on the goal of getting the application into the hands of the people who need it as soon as possible,” said Kristian Hammond, the Bill and Cathy Osborn Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “All issues of ego, credit and costs that usually get in the way vanished in the face of the need and how we could work together to meet it.”