HIGPA – Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

Does the supply chain have a missing link in the implementation of GS1 standards?
By Curtis Rooney

National Geographic recently announced that the so-called “missing link” – a 47-million-year-old fossil and critical piece in primate evolution – had been found in Germany. The lemur-like skeleton is said to bridge the evolutionary gap between humans and apes. At the same time, the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association’s (HIGPA) Committee on Healthcare eStandards (CHeS) may have discovered a similarly critical split, only this time in the healthcare supply chain’s evolution toward implementation of GS1 standards.

GS1 standards promise to provide both a common language and linkages for trade information that can be used by anyone in the supply chain, in any location around the world. Healthcare providers, group purchasing organizations (GPOs), distributors and a number of leading suppliers have long held that a key element to increasing patient safety, quality and efficiency, as well as reducing costs, will be found in the successful implementation of GS1 standards related to:

  • Global Locator Numbers (GLNs)
  • Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)
  • Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).

What a waste
A recent update of the path-breaking study entitled the Efficient Healthcare Consumer Response (EHCR) study, found that $16 billion is wasted each year in the healthcare supply chain primarily because data standards are either lacking completely or are not as widely used or developed as in other industries. To advance this cause, a number of organizations, including HIGPA, have announced support for the GS1 implementation and adoption timeline that includes the following sunrise dates:

  • December 2010 for Global Location Numbers (GLN)
  • December 2012 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN)

The MMIS link
Unproven, however, is the strong suspicion that the “missing link” in the GS1 implementation equation may be the Material Management Information System (MMIS) solution providers. The theory is that if MMIS providers are not prepared, then healthcare providers wouldn’t be able to convert when these dates go into effect. Further, it is often claimed by other stakeholders in the Healthcare Supply Chain, “that if the providers can’t adopt the standards there is no compelling reason to move more quickly.” To test this notion and determine the readiness of MMIS technology providers, CHeS has hired well-known healthcare consultant John Burks to collaborate with companies such as Lawson, PeopleSoft, McKesson, Meditech and others.

The objective of his work is to determine whether the MMIS community is sufficiently ready to assist healthcare providers and others in the supply chain in the implementation process. Burks has been tasked with conducting an in-depth national survey of these organizations to provide a “snap shot” of the industry. The survey, developed mostly by a GS1 work group, but in conjunction with CHeS and the Association of Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM), will be the next step in testing the hypothesis that the MMIS community is the “missing link.”

The survey will include questions related to MMIS implementation concerning:

  • Identification of the key issues and limitations of current systems.
  • Determining the technology provider’s awareness and support of the industry adopted Sunrise Timeline.
  • Assessment of the current compliance status and project plans against multiple dimensions.
  • Commitment to specific road map plans or recommended “workaround” accommodations for all software versions.
  • Estimates of the cost impact to customers to achieve compliance.
  • Determination of specific issues and where HIGPA, CHeS, GS1 and AHRMM can assist.

Unlike National Geographic, the hope is to never actually find the “missing link.” Reporting the fact that GS1 implementation is proceeding on all fronts is the preferred discovery. Nothing would be better than to find that all the MMIS vendors are ready to:

  • Deliver applications though version control releases rather than workarounds.
  • Publish road maps and timelines for deliverables that align with industry Sunrise Dates.
  • Store and transact (EDI) using GLN and GTIN.
  • Reduce and/or eliminate dual numbering systems with newest versions.
  • Receive and align product information from GDSN or from any other data aggregation source which uses GS1 standards.
  • Promote and publish compliance roadmaps and the creation of best practice and standards implementation guidelines and recommendations.

Documenting the progress of MMIS providers is the next step in whether the supply chain’s progress in implementation of GS1 standards will be evolutionary or revolutionary. The results of the survey are expected to be completed by September. It has not been determined whether the results will be released or used as a benchmark from which future efforts can be measured.

If these companies have prepared applications that support standards and are in the process of delivering GS1 compliance to their users and customers, the results could show that a revolution is underway. On the other hand, if the outcomes show that the “missing link” in the supply chain is the MMIS community, we are prepared to provide assistance to ensure that this process evolves in a timely manner so that no one looks “lemur-like” when the GS1 sunrise dates are implemented.