Healthcare News & Insights

The power of data: How standards can transform healthcare delivery

Offering high-quality medical care as affordably and efficiently as possible is a tremendous balancing act for healthcare providers. In this guest post, Angela Fernandez, VP of Community Engagement at an information standards organization, explains how operational excellence supported by advanced, system-wide data management is a linchpin to optimizing efficiencies while maintaining a primary focus on patient care and safety.


So how can the supply chain align to better meet the changing needs of those on the front lines of delivering care to patients?

Like so many businesses and industries today, the answer lies in better data.  To be useful, data related to medical products and supply chain events (such as shipping, receiving, inventory control, etc.) must be robust and interoperable – which requires the use of data standards all trading partners and users can understand. Medical devices and pharmaceutical products require unique product identification for tracking throughout the supply chain and at point of use.

Global data standards

Implementing global data standards enables healthcare providers to improve supply chain transparency and inventory controls. The ability to pinpoint complete and accurate information about the products used in medical care, and to exchange that information in a common language that is understood by all supply chain partners, is vital.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires manufacturers to label pharmaceutical and medical device products with standardized, unique identifiers in accordance with the Drug  Supply Chain Security  Act (DSCSA) and the Unique Device Identification (UDI) rule, respectively. Both regulations are intended to improve patient safety by enabling product transparency and traceability. As these products move through the supply chain, their barcodes are scanned and a chain of custody is established, giving providers valuable information about their incoming orders and inventory. That information also becomes crucial in the event of a product recall or other adverse events.

Case study

One of the largest health systems in the state of Louisiana, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS), made the strategic decision and established a special group to focus on implementing global standards to help drive digital transformation of its business and critical processes. The multi-year undertaking involved all FMOLHS hospitals, their subsidiaries and affiliate organizations, and several community hospitals. FMOLHS asked its suppliers to label their products with global trade item numbers (GTINs) so they can scan, track and manage their inventory.

Today, approximately 85% of implantable products delivered to FMOLHS are marked with a GS1 GTIN, and every FMOLHS location is uniquely identified with its own GS1 Global Location Number (GLN), so wherever a product is stored within the system’s multiple facilities, it can be found quickly and easily. The hierarchy of locations includes all FMOLHS hospitals and physician clinics, as well as all procedure areas and other facilities, such as imaging and tissue banks. They even assigned GLNs to places where products are stored, like a cart, a closet, or even a shelf in a closet on a certain floor. Then, they began accessing product data (i.e., GTINs and other valuable information) from suppliers via the GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network™ (GDSN), a data-sharing protocol that enables trading partners to share product master data with real time updates.

Hospital staff can now provide just-in-time delivery of needed products and offer the “best unit of measure” product, in the requested quantity, to any internal or warehouse location. In the operating room, nurses scan product barcodes to capture detailed data about products and to populate the patient’s electronic health records (EHRs) and other internal management systems. Scanning the barcodes at the point of care improves patient safety, saves time, reduces mistakes and enables better record keeping.

Products can be closely monitored based on expiration dates and, in the event of a recall, affected products can be precisely located and pulled from inventory within minutes. At FMOLHS, detailed information about the cost per case – by procedure, physician and product – is used by the chief medical officer and physicians to analyze the products and procedures associated with anticipated patient outcomes.

FMOLHS’ experience illustrates how global standards implementation can advance a healthcare system’s data management, supporting operational efficiencies and better patient care. To read more about FMOLHS’ standards implementation, download the case study.

Angela Fernandez is the VP of Community Engagement at GS1 US.


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