This article is written by Liz Klinger, co-founder of Mask Match, one of Outcome Health’s newest health advocacy partners.
When I started hearing about PPE shortages in the news, I called my mom. She’s a lifelong nurse in the Bay Area, where some of the first infections were identified.
Governor Gavin Newsom expanded shelter in place across California and urged people over the age of 65 and with underlying health conditions to stay at home. My mom was still working, and she and her co-workers did not have masks. Her floor had actually locked up the masks and shamed staff when they asked for them. My mom wasn’t even given a mask when she went in to work with a patient who had an unidentified respiratory issue — and in the early days when there were no tests, it felt like my mom was forced to play a game of Russian roulette.
I learned that her hospital was not the only one experiencing this. Nearly every single hospital in the Bay Area was facing mask shortages and providing inadequate PPE, including some of the most reputable hospitals in the area. This wasn’t out of malice — demand suddenly went up for a hard-to-make supply, and people were scared, trying to pace out masks for the anticipated increase of hospital cases. But in saving that protection for later, that means leaving workers vulnerable without protection now, putting workers at risk of becoming part of the influx of patients later.
I didn’t want my mom to be one of them. I didn’t want to lose my mom.
Donating spare masks to healthcare workers in need
That’s why I started Mask Match (www.mask-match.com) with my friend Chloe. Mask Match is a platform to enable people with spare masks to send them directly to the hands of healthcare workers around the country. We set it up so donors don’t have to leave the house — they can use USPS Click-and-Ship to have the postal worker pick up the package from their doorstep, which makes it safer and easier for both the donors and hospital workers.
Mask Match began from my panic and a Zoom call with a friend over several glasses of wine.
Chloe and I are both entrepreneurs — Chloe is CEO and Co-founder of Medinas Health (www.medinas.com) and I am CEO and Co-founder of Lioness Health (www.lioness.io). We are both familiar with manufacturing and supply chain and realized that even if we tried to increase supply from overseas or even spin up manufacturing in the country, it would take weeks, if not months, for some of these to start, much less meet the massive influx of demand for PPE. We realized that the best, easiest, most accessible way to get masks to healthcare workers in this time are the masks in our homes and workshops.
The masks are already here in the country — no importing involved. Many masks come in boxes and include product information that is reliable — many masks being made right now, especially overseas, may not be the quality they claim to be, or some sellers might be outright scamming desperate buyers (we’re seeing both of these things in the news now). Getting these masks does not compete with the global supply chain for masks and minimizes disruption. They go directly to the hands of workers who will put them to use. Many of these workers like my own mom were given no alternative and were otherwise defenseless.
We built the website and launched it in a few hours. Donations and requests exploded over the weekend. I still remember the first request. The worker and their staff were stapling and re-stapling their masks when the elastic came off, trying to keep each mask as long as possible. They needed PPE. We connected them to a donor in their state who shipped the masks.
Partnership at the point of care
This happened again, and again, and again. A month later, we’re working with 314 volunteers who have helped shipped over 300,000 masks (and counting) across all 50 states. Outcome Health reached out to create a PSA for Mask Match which is now playing across their point-of-care platform in over 36,000 physician practices across the United States. Volunteers and donors alike feel a personal connection to the workers we’re helping and feel a bit less alone in a time when we’re all separated. Healthcare workers feel cared for and they’re getting some help and a bit of relief during a very difficult time.
We found that the people who benefited most were the ones at the mid-sized and smaller hospitals, urgent care centers, EMS, and assisted living homes, and also places that were outside the cities — places that didn’t have the same marketing resources to hold donation drives or financial power to negotiate in the global marketplace.
Help when it’s needed the most
Over time we’ve shifted to helping the most vulnerable. We were recently able to send thousands of mask donations to a hospital in Mississippi, where they experienced the third largest tornado in US history. Hundreds of people lost their homes including 57 medical workers. We shipped masks to them within days of the natural disaster after an employee reached out. We pride ourselves on being able to help quickly in a time when speed is the answer. After all, COVID-19 isn’t waiting for us to get ready.
This mask matching system is not meant to be permanent or to fulfill the entire mask need. It’s a temporary fix to a temporary problem — a bandaid, if you will. In a time when the alternative is sometimes nothing, nothing shouldn’t suffice. We entered a new normal overnight and needed to adapt. I needed to protect my mom.
It’s been one month since that night on Zoom, and while we’re starting to adapt, we’re not out of the woods yet with medical supplies. There are still many places where hospital workers are inadequately protected and vulnerable to getting the virus.
If you come across some masks during your quarantine spring cleaning, fill out the form and let us know. We’ll help you find someone who needs them now. The sooner you send those masks, the sooner people’s lives will be saved — maybe even your own life!
If you’d like to donate or request masks, visit www.mask-match.com to get started.
If you don’t have masks but still want to help, you can donate, volunteer, or help spread the word on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
About Liz Klinger
Liz Klinger is the Co-founder and CEO of Lioness (www.lioness.io). During the COVID-19 outbreak, Klinger also co-founded Mask Match (www.mask-match.com), a volunteer-run project that has matched over 300,000 domestic masks from individuals to front line healthcare workers who desperately need them. Mask-Match was ABC New’s Person of the Week and has also been featured in The New York Times, Fox News, and SFGate.
Klinger has been featured in The New York Times’s Women of the World and has presented at TEDx, SXSW, The Commonwealth Club, and top universities around the world including Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, and Chalmers about entrepreneurship.
Want to support patients during the most important moments of their health journey? Bring Outcome Health to your practice.