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Healthcare Business Solutions
August 15th, 2014

The long road to data standards adoption


We’ve been talking a lot about data standards. Last year, Cook proudly announced that we were among the first companies to adopt GS1 data standards by applying Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to all of our products. We were also honored to be recognized for that effort earlier this year. Clearly, we’re invested in this issue, but would you believe that the process to adopt a global data standard started all the way back in 2000?

Fourteen years ago, our IT systems were getting in the way of our ability to do business efficiently. Our company was growing quickly and with each new manufacturing plant or distribution center came a new IT system and business process. The different systems didn’t speak the same language, so it became difficult to coordinate how our products moved around the world. And, we knew that if we were having trouble internally, that it had to be affecting our customers and, most importantly, their patients.

We decided to make a change in order to improve patient care. In 2000, when we started this process, we had 376,000 unique product numbers. That translates to 376,000 labels, 376,000 IFUs, and 376,000 marketing pieces. In reality, all those numbers represented only about 20,000 unique products. It took many years, but we streamlined our internal systems, cleaned up our data, and applied the GS1 global standard to all of our products.

Ensuring that products can be easily tracked from our warehouses to the patient’s bedside is crucial to preventing clinical and administrative errors. Too often, expired or recalled products are used on patients because healthcare simply doesn’t have a way of managing product data as it moves through the healthcare system. These are the very real problems that adopting data standards will help solve.

Regulatory agencies around the world are looking seriously at how best to use data standards to improve patient safety and reduce the overall cost of healthcare, an effort which we applaud and support. We know from experience that making a commitment to adopt data standards globally can bring valuable benefits to all members of the healthcare system.

“It’s a journey. It’s constantly changing, it’s constantly moving,” said Chuck Franz, our chief information officer. “We should all be in the room for the same reason: to improve patient safety. And along the way, we can cut healthcare costs. We can improve the supply chain.”

Fully adopting data standards has been a long journey for us. Adopting data standards across entire healthcare systems will be an even longer one. But we think it’s a worthy goal, with valuable benefits for patients and the supply chain. We’re in for the long haul.