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Healthcare Business Solutions
September 11th, 2014

Are we there yet?


The first wave of unique device identification UDI regulations is staring device manufacturers in the face, with the requirement that all Class III implantable devices will be marked with a unique device identifier by September 24, 2014. It’s a good opportunity to take a step back and look at where the industry is in terms of adopting data standards, and how far we have left to go.

Imagine a trail, well worn in some places and barely trod in others. Detours off the trail take travelers on slightly different routes, but all head to the same place. Bumps and obstacles in the path force travelers to be thoughtful and careful about the steps they take.

Such a path is a good representation of the journey healthcare is taking towards data standards implementation. And every organization is at a different point.

Most of the UDI regulations are manufacturer requirements, so suppliers are leading the way. We’ve been lucky to be one of the first manufacturers who is able today to do business with our customers using GS1 standards. We’re doing our best to capture best practices and learn from missteps so that we can make the path a little easier for our customers and other organizations to follow.

For example, we worked with two health systems in the Midwest, one of which was farther down the path of adopting data standards than the other. We wanted to connect the two organizations, so that the more experienced could become an advisor and discuss the challenges that both systems were facing.

“It’s great to see customers connect with each other,” said Mike Hughes, vice president Healthcare Business Solutions – Supply Chain & Distribution for Cook Medical. “It’s one thing for Cook to say ‘this is how it should go,’ and another for a customer to say ‘this is what we’ve learned as we’ve gone down this road’. This new spirit of collaboration in healthcare is born of the need to do things better.”

One of the most interesting parts of this journey has been watching the different routes that organizations are taking to arrive at their goals. For example, two major health systems in the United States are taking completely different approaches to data standards. One is starting by ensuring their clinical systems can use data standards, while the other is starting with their purchasing and supply chain systems.

“It’s ok that we have different systems taking different approaches to data standards,” says Dave Reed, vice president of Healthcare Business Solutions and Operations at Cook Medical. “It creates an environment where each of us can get a piece of the work done and share how to do it with others.”