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The Invisible System – supporting better patient care through accurate data sharing

Date: December 15, 2017

Category: Industry news

When you stop and think, it is apparent that patient care depends on sustainable and effective supply chains.

Led by experienced clinician support, nearly all patient care requires product inputs of some kind, whether medicines, bandages, syringes or more complex devices. Across the NHS these are consumed on a daily basis and need to be replenished.

Thousands of suppliers support the NHS by providing the equipment it needs to treat its patients. Yet, before medical goods of any kind can be delivered, buying organisations need to tell selling organisations what they need. With so many products, often with many specifications, some of them entirely bespoke, supporting many different procedures and interventions – and the consequence of getting it wrong potentially harmful – this specific procurement process is currently fraught with difficulty.

A way to simplify this process and better support the NHS to care for its patients in a timely and error-free way, is for suppliers and NHS buyers to share information on the products that they sell and buy, electronically. In the age of the Internet and ‘cloud’ hosted just about everything, this does not sound like science fiction.

The GS1 Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) offers the opportunity to provide the NHS with a ‘single source of truth’ for product data. Through this model, suppliers maintain accurate product data, using their tried and tested electronic systems; NHS buyers access this accurate data using their own, selected in-trust catalogue management systems; and, accurate information flows electronically between the two through a validation gateway that provides assurance over the scope and quality of the data that is being exchanged.

The NHS is not the only healthcare system to have realised this and have stated an aspiration to work towards its realisation. However, the NHS finds itself ahead of many, because it has a plan – the NHS eProcurement Strategy – and is well on the way to seeing that plan become a reality. Through the Department of Health-led Scan4Safety initiative, early adopters are piloting the exchange of quality master product data over GDSN and setting the foundations for a robust and easily scalable PEPPOL network for the exchange of business documents, such as Purchase Orders and Invoices.

Patient care should be delivered without concern for the supply chain behind it. Patients shouldn’t stop and think about these processes that support their care. Thankfully, this capability is exactly what is now being built into healthcare today.

About Scan4Safety – Setting the Standards for Safer Care

Scan4Safety is a pioneering initiative led by the Department of Health that is improving patient safety, increasing clinical productivity and advancing supply chain efficiency through the adoption of standards in healthcare. For more information, visit


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