The need for data standards brings provider and supplier together

By Deborah Templeton and Jeff Fallon

Stakeholders who were once at odds can move to collaboration for mutual success. Think Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble, or Kodak and IBM. Seismic economic shifts have dismantled markets, but through crisis, winners have emerged that created paradigm-changing results through stakeholder collaboration.

In early 2010, Geisinger Health System Supply Chain and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc. committed to try. The December 2010 sunrise target for use of Global Location Numbers (GLNs) emerged as an opportunity for strategic collaboration.

Four intense hours
With the belief that better understanding of respective strategies and tactics would speed joint success, we brought data standards activity leaders from both organizations to share insights and to assess the opportunity for alignment. After four intense hours, both groups had gained new knowledge of their data standards concerns and aspirations and, most important, agreed to continue the conversation through two regularly scheduled focus group conference calls.

The first group call is centered on data standards activities, including understanding the impact of the incorporation of standards into each value chain and the impact that not doing so has on both parties. The other group focuses on product auto-identification (Auto-ID) issues. Product identification includes the use of the GS1 Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) standard and the Unique Device Identification (UDI) standard under development with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Incorporating the use of these standards in daily operations would begin to build a base for cleaner transaction communication and eventually improve traceability of products in the healthcare value chain. These improvements could deter counterfeiting and diversion while positively impacting recall processes and other points along the product continuum. Overall, standards adoption is one more tool to enable improvement in the quality and safety of care delivery.

Tests identify potential glitches
Through these focus groups, several projects of mutual strategic importance have begun, which are already improving GLN and Auto-ID readiness. For example, a team of technical experts from both organizations is currently testing Geisinger’s GLNs on the Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems platform to ensure system compatibility and accuracy. Through the testing, steps were identified that caused errors and delay. The team has been able to address the issues well in advance, ensuring a smoother transition at the mission-critical go-live. Similarly, subject matter experts are now testing new auto-identification symbology on our disparate systems and exploring ways to work together toward a better system that will enable greater mutual efficiency for the benefit of patient safety in the end. While this and other collaborative work continues, normal business issues are still navigated and resolved on a daily basis.

Since launching this collaboration, two other integrated delivery networks have joined the focus groups and have expanded the impact of our work. Thanks to their input, new conversations have accelerated joint data standards integration and auto-ID progress. We are talking through issues in a way that is improving trust and speeding success in critical areas.

Geisinger Health System Supply Chain and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems are demonstrating that, in healthcare as in other markets, focused stakeholder collaboration is the time-tested path to success through the turbulent times.

Deborah Templeton, R.Ph., MHA, is vice president of supply chain services for Geisinger Health System. Jeff Fallon is director, customer development, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems.

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