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Healthcare Business Solutions
May 26th, 2015

From Dave’s Desk: How can you adopt data standards and do business at the same time?

dave reed littleImagine trying to change a flat tire on your car, while driving in the left lane of a major highway. No pulling over to the side of the road or stopping at the next exit. You have to keep going, keep up with traffic, and get that tire changed safely.

Sounds pretty impossible, right? Unfortunately, this is exactly how adopting data standards can feel for hospitals that have to ensure that patients continue getting the products they need. There’s no getting around it: changing entire systems so that data standards can be used in your organization is a massive effort. It takes time, money, and energy. It affects every area of the organization. Above all, it takes people who are willing to roll up their sleeves do the hard work. And it all has to happen alongside “business as usual.”

Understanding the reason behind data standards adoption is essential. It makes committing to all that work worthwhile. There is a very good reason that we decided to go through our own data standards adoption process, and why we encourage others to do it as well. That reason is patients.

The benefits of using data standards are numerous and varied, but they can be boiled down into two large areas: patient safety, and operational efficiency.

Data standards give us the assurance that expired or recalled products will never make it to a patient’s bedside. It sounds like a simple enough goal, but the existing processes don’t allow for it. Using GTIN and GLN numbers, suppliers and providers can track and trace products all the way from a manufacturers warehouse to a patient’s bedside.

The other substantial benefit to adopting data standards is the enormous improvement in operational efficiency. Historically, healthcare supply chain systems were labor-intensive, requiring a lot of manual data entry and repetitive work. They haven’t improved at the pace that other industries have, so they are still prone to human errors and inefficiency. GTIN numbers eliminate a lot of the potential for errors and repetition.

And, as an added perk for hospitals and hospital systems, using GS1 data standards means that your suppliers can publish accurate product data to you automatically and consistently through the Global Data Synchronization Network. That alone should speak volumes about how much these standards can change our system.

One thing that helps give us peace of mind about the sizable project we’re working through is hearing when other organizations have succeeded already. Sandi Michel of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS) gave us her perspective on adopting GTINs using a pilot program to start. FMOLHS and Cook worked together to identify the technical needs, capture and use GLNs and GTINs to transact using e-commerce, and to create documents for all US healthcare providers who could learn from their experience.

Sandi sums it up nicely: “We tested and documented every step, every process, every system change and every lesson learned. The lessons learned from our FMOLHS-Cook Medical Pilot were used as we launched each of the remaining 6 pilots. Together we built a solid foundation for implementing GS1 US data standards.”

Data standards take work. There’s no way around it. But, it actually is possible to change the data standards tire while you’re in the left lane. And it’s possible because you can have help. Tell us what challenges you’re encountering or what questions you have. Find us on Twitter @CookMedical or LInkedIN.

Check out our past posts from Dave’s desk here.


Reed_Dave_5x7_7238David Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical Incorporated. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves as a member of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain and Global Management Academy Advisory Board.