Codes may help healthcare track devices worldwide

by Anne Zieger on August 30, 2012

Group developing standards for tracking medical devicesOutside of the murky world of supply chain logistics, few readers may have heard of a trade group known as GS1. But the even if you’re not a logistics kind of gal/guy, don’t fall asleep yet. There’s some very interesting ideas floating around the GS1 world, and if you have your hands on a medical device — or want to manage one — check this out.

Besides, GS1 isn’t just focused on hospitals or medical practices, as worthy as that might be. No, it’s working to build a system that everyone, and I mean everyone, can work with peacefully, including: “pharmaceutical and medical devices manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, group purchasing organisations, hospitals, pharmacies, logistics providers, governmental and regulatory bodies, and associations.”  Wow.

GS1, a rather geeky body to be sure,  has developed a group of numbers which uniquely identify medical locations, dubbed Global Location Numbers (GLNs).  It’s also planning to launch a set of product identifier numbers, to be called Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), which are designed to make individual medical devices more traceable. Among other standards, the group is also working on GS1 eCom, which will offer standards for sharing data between health organizations.

Unless you’re a supply chain groupie, the rest of the details would probably be a bit too dense (though you may be interested to know that healthcare organizations like Geisinger and Mayo are set to work with customers using GLNs).

Still, consider this:

* As healthcare goes global, it’s a great time to think about how your enterprise, vendor firm, clinical organization or medical device maker will address the ever-sprawling supply chain management problems. So it’s worth knowing more about this effort, no?

*  If I were a clinical care provider, I’d particularly pleased to know that any used equipment I got was just as advertised, something I believe these standards can — or will eventually — accomplish.

*  If I were running IT for a large healthcare organization, I’d really want to know whether my plans needed to accomodate these codes, and if so, what it will take to support them. Big bucks?

So, readers, it’s your turn. If you’re close enough to the problem, can you tell me whether  GS1 is offering the leading edge approach to improving global healthcare supply chain operations?  If not, who else or what else is a contender?

P.S.   FYI, I was alerted to the latest in GS1 and healthcare supply chain news by people repping Ascent,  a division of medical device maker Stryker Corp.  Thanks, Sara!

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