The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS) has five major medical centers and is the largest health system in Louisiana. Founded in 1911, FMOLHS is a non-profit, mission-focused healthcare ministry that provides millions in unreimbursed medical care each year. As FMOLHS’s leadership learned about the Affordable Care Act and new regulations from the FDA, they realized that they needed to adopt GS1 data standards in order to help sustain their healthcare system and keep providing the highest possible level of patient safety.
Sandi Michel, who was then the director of FMOLHS’s Materials Management department, attended a global GS1 conference in order to ask other healthcare systems if they had any tools that could help FMOLHS start implementing GS1 standards. None of the systems had these tools, so when Sandi returned to FMOLHS in Baton Rouge, she assembled a group of about 80 people who would plan FMOLHS’s GS1 implementation and share what they learned with other healthcare systems. Cook Medical, which had already assigned GTINs to all of its products, was one of the first groups that wanted to help.
At the kickoff meeting in Baton Rouge, Sandi presented her first drafts of a process document and a network diagram. The group of 80 broke into teams that were each responsible for a specific part of the project, and someone from Cook was on each team. Between May and August of 2014, the teams executed the project according to the plan. The teams uploaded GTINs into the software, cleansed data, and corrected descriptions and units of measure in FMOLHS’s ERP software (Lawson).
FMOLHS wanted to use the Global Data Standards Network (GDSN) because the GDSN’s accurate data would prevent errors and make transactions between a manufacturer and a provider happen seamlessly. Josh Richardson managed the development team at Cook that tested the data interoperability. His team worked with FMOLHS to create data flowcharts that show how the data would to move from system to system. “It only took a couple of weeks to work out the kinks,” Josh said. “This project exceeded any expectations I had about how well it would go, because there was very good, open communication. We were readily available, and they reached out along the way. When we work with other customers, we refer back to this case as a model.”
Because of this project, FMOLHS created its Office of Data Standards and Interoperability. FMOLHS used this project with Cook as a model to make six other projects with six other manufacturers a success. FMOLHS was able to remove two very manual steps in its procurement process. Now that FMOLHS is using GS1 standards, a buyer no longer needs to review and approve every order. From automating only those two steps, FMOLHS saved about $54,000 a year on its transactions with Cook.
FMOLHS’s long-term vision is to use GS1 standards end-to-end in order to make all of its transactions seamless and touchless. Sandi said that “FMOLHS wants the GTIN to be the single number that references that product in every system. We want to use the GTIN to help us compare and analyse outcomes, and to help the physicians decide how they want to standardize. It’s been overwhelmingly popular with our clinicians.
“There’s a myth out there that implementing standards is very expensive, that it’s too complex, and that your software won’t be able to handle it,” Sandi said, “but those are challenges you can overcome. You can use any software company.”
The Keys to Success
To make the implementation a success, Sandi engaged all of the parties early in the process so that they could help develop the vision for the project. “The collaboration and the commitment were rock solid,” she said. People committed to do their specific tasks according to the project plan, but the deadlines were flexible, and everyone was allowed to take the time that they needed in order to do their part.
“Choose a really good partner that will work with you to set up your first pilot,” Sandi advised. “We were very fortunate that we had the best partner, Cook Medical, to work with us. We worked together like we were one company. I don’t know that we would have been as successful without the help and the guidance that Cook gave us. That relationship was the key to success for us.”
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