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Solving the international value equation with GS1 standards

Date: November 02, 2017

Category: Guest opinion piece

Author: Guest author

GHXIn a series of blogs from our healthcare conference sponsors, Karen Conway, Executive Director at GHX, looks at the value of implementing GS1 standards to the healthcare system

In my role at Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX) and by serving in various industry positions, including on the GS1 Global Healthcare Leadership Team, I have had the pleasure of working with highly dedicated healthcare professionals from around the world. Despite the differences in how we finance our various healthcare systems, we share a common goal: to optimise the use of finite resources to improve both clinical and financial performance. As such, we stand to benefit by sharing best practices.

One of those best practices is the use of GS1 standards to identify products, places and patients. In this way, we can improve visibility into what products are used to care for patients and at which facilities. This kind of data is fundamental to performing the kind of analytics needed to understand what really delivers the best value to patients, using the equation below.


An example of international best practice sharing is the attention being given to the NHS Scan4Safety programme. In the U.S. alone this year, the Scan4Safety has been featured at a number of major industry events, including:

The attention is warranted given the impressive early results from the initial six demonstration sites. More than £700,000 of savings have already been identified as the result of better inventory management, less product wastage and obsolescence and improved productivity. View a video of the Scan4Safety programme in action at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Beyond these impressive savings, the Scan4Safety programme represents one of the first instances where supply chain is at the forefront of healthcare public policy to improve both cost and quality. When clinicians spend less time on supply chain activities, they can spend more time caring for patients. Better tracking of products also aids in recall management, including being able to determine which patients have been treated with faulty devices. But the Scan4Safety Programme and the use of GS1 standards can go beyond just helping identify when things go wrong.

We can also leverage GS1 standards to help us garner real world evidence (RWE) on product performance to better understand which products work best on which patient populations. This data can help us determine if and when it makes sense to use a more expensive product based on patient needs and conditions and when a lower priced product will work just as well.

As manufacturers have worked to comply with the U.S. FDA UDI regulation, a significant number of medical devices sold in the U.S. now bear unique device identifiers (UDIs), most of which are GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs). The NHS eProcurement Policy, which requires GTINs on healthcare products, and the pending UDI rule in Europe will further increase the availability of standard identifiers that can help track real world performance of medical devices. Because GS1 standards are global and regulators are working to harmonise their approach to UDI regulations, information on product performance collected around the world will ideally help create a robust and relatable source of real world evidence (RWE).

Earlier this year, I participated in an expert panel on RWE and shared how supply chain can support their efforts. Many supply chain organisations have already incorporated GS1 standards into their systems and processes. As the one discipline that touches the clinical, financial and operational aspects of healthcare, supply chain is well positioned to help extend the use of standards in clinical and financial systems. Capturing GTINs on products used in patient care in electronic medical records can help provide data to evaluate how products impact the quality of care, while incorporating the standards in financial systems helps us understand how products contribute to the cost of care.

But it takes more than just identifying products and capturing GTINs in EMRs. Those GTINs need to help unlock additional attributes about those products in both regulatory, clinical and commercial databases. Exactly which attributes are needed depends upon what someone is trying to do with the product, e.g., procure it, store it, use it, pay for it, evaluate it, etc. That requires a solid data management strategy, but it begins with the ability for multiple stakeholders to call the same product, the same thing, across the healthcare system, from the point of manufacture through to use.

GHX has been proud to support many of the Scan4Safety demonstration sites by helping them:

  • Accelerate access to GTINs and other product data
  • Match patients (using GS1 identifiers) to data on the specific products used in their care
  • Utilise mandated PEPPOL access points for procurement

These services and others are delivered via both GHX technology solutions and consultancy. Working together, GHX, the demonstration sites and the participating manufacturers are demonstrating how to integrate GS1 standards in the most efficient manner possible. More importantly, the Scan4Safety programme is proving how lessons learned in the UK can deliver value to hospitals and to patients the world over.

Karen ConwayKaren Conway, Executive Director
T: @conwaycomments

About GHX

GHX UK Ltd. is part of Global Healthcare Exchange, LLC (GHX), a global healthcare technology and services company. GHX works to reduce the cost of doing business in healthcare by enabling better supply chain management. For more information please visit:

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