HSCA: It just takes one!

Supply chain efficiency made easy

The healthcare supply chain must change! It must become more efficient, less expensive and more patient-focused. That’s the deeply held belief of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association’s (HSCA’s) Committee for Healthcare e-Standards (CHeS) and its membership of the nation’s leading group purchasing organizations. As a result of this commitment, the group launched It Just Takes One (Just-1), a campaign to bring the healthcare supply chain into a proven, standards-based environment. Just-1 has a singular focus on the GLN Registry and the essential first step for providers to review, validate and take ownership of their locations and location hierarchy.

What’s in a number?
The GLN is a 13-digit number used to uniquely identify any legal entity, functional entity, or physical location. Its basic components are a GS1 Company Prefix, a Location Reference, and a Check Digit. The GS1 Company Prefix is assigned by GS1 USA, the non-profit organization that manages the GS1 standard in the United States. The Location Reference is the number assigned by the holder of the GS1 Company Prefix to uniquely identify a location within the company. The Location Reference varies in length as a function of the GS1 Company Prefix length. Each company or organization holding a GS1 Company Prefix may assign Global Location Numbers to their own locations. The Check Digit is a calculated one-digit number used to ensure data integrity.

Within this regime, each location of a healthcare facility is assigned a unique 13-digit number called a Global Location Number (GLN). The GLN provides a globally unique standardized location identification number for providers, manufacturers, and distributors. Subscribers to the Registry – which include hospitals, manufacturers, and distributors – are able to access an updated and accurate list of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, hospitals, clinics, and retail/mail-order pharmacies, ensuring accuracy of their supply chain activities. The more accurate the supply chain data, the more efficient the healthcare system.

The campaign
Just-1 challenges the perception that validating Global Location Numbers and transacting with GS1 standards are too difficult or require unavailable healthcare resources. This multi-GPO effort is actively helping hospitals and other healthcare providers validate their locations in the GLN Registry – an important step toward transacting within the GS1 standards program, which promises to bring the healthcare supply chain into the 21st Century.

Just one validated GLN is all a hospital or healthcare provider will need to begin issuing purchase orders electronically under the GS1 standard. GLNs may then be encoded in a GS1 bar code and used to identify ship-to, bill-to and purchased-from information, among other functional data and locations. This will help bring healthcare providers up to the same standard of efficiency and accuracy already achieved in other sectors of the economy, such as retail and grocery stores.

This multi-element campaign includes a sustained effort by each participating GPO to reach out to at least 100 of its provider members or clients and schedule a “walk through” the GLN Registry with each. Just-1 also includes a handoff of the editing role from the GPO to the provider at the end of the one-on-one session. This will allow the hospital or healthcare provider to validate its GLN(s) and/or “declare readiness” on the GLN Readiness Scorecard. GPOs will also be better positioned to help their provider members or clients review any next steps that need to be taken in order to begin transacting using these data standards.

While the actual number of GLN entries for a hospital will depend on the size and sophistication of its hierarchy within the Registry, Just-1 recognizes that hospitals can begin transacting with just one GLN validated. Just-1 is focused first on the key step of GLN validation. Once this key step is completed, GPOs will help providers work toward transacting, either using their own materials management information system, GS1 or through GHX.

Progress not perfection
When Just-1 was launched in July 2011 more than 500 individual provider entities out of 5,500 known locations had declared “readiness” on the GLN Readiness Scorecard. This number has more than tripled! As of January 2012, the scorecard showed 94 organizations and 1,597 total facilities have declared GLN Readiness! In addition, a new study conducted by the University of Arkansas’s Center for Innovative Healthcare Logistics showed that 71 percent of respondents are moving toward the adoption of data standards. “As expected, GLNs had a higher rate of adoption than GTINs, with the sunrise date for GLNs passing last year,” said Edward Pohl, Ph.D., lead researcher on the study. (“GTIN” refers to Global Trade Item Number, a unique identifier for medical products.)

Through another key element of Just-1, the GPO community will be a part of as many as six regional workshops being planned for 2012. The workshops will be co-sponsored by HSCA/CHeS, the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM), GS1 Healthcare US, and the Strategic Marketplace Initiative. Each workshop will include faculty drawn from providers and suppliers who have actual experience with GLN validation as well as transactions. Participants will have the opportunity to work with their GPO prior to the workshop and to work one-on-one with workshop faculty and sponsor volunteers to begin validating and making the first step toward transacting. Healthcare provider, manufacturer, and distributor supply chain professionals are invited to attend a free GLN Implementation Workshop. Space is limited to the first 60 registrants. For registration information and agenda, visit www.gs1us.org/hcGLNworkshop.

Efficiency by the numbers
For more than 35 years, the GS1 system of global supply chain standards has delivered proven results in many industries, including the groundbreaking UPC barcode symbology in retail. Just-1 recognizes that now is the time for the U.S. healthcare industry to leverage the value of GS1 standards to improve patient safety and supply chain efficiency.

Starting with Just-1, users of the GLN Registry for Healthcare can expect a variety of business benefits:

  • The enhanced data integrity allows healthcare providers and suppliers to improve collaborative commerce activities in key electronic commerce processes, such as invoicing and logistics.
  • The GLN Registry for Healthcare promotes efficiency by accelerating the use of electronic data interchange and Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based business messages.
  • GLNs can be assigned to any location, ensuring ultimate flexibility to meet the needs and requirements of all businesses anywhere in the world.
  • The Registry is online and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is the only place that stores all present and past GLN information.
  • Use of the GLN – an open, global standard – ties communication within healthcare to a global language of business that is agreed upon by 23 major industries in 155 countries.
  • A GLN can be used throughout the world, eliminating the inefficiencies of proprietary numbers and identification.

Ultimately, the public policy and business propositions are revolutionary. They include:

  • Improved patient safety: efficient bedside verification, reduced medication errors, more effective product recalls.
  • Supply chain efficiency: improved order and invoice processes, accurate contract pricing and rebate processing, improved service levels/fill rate and inventory management.
  • Regulatory compliance: medical device identification, efficient drug traceability, effective electronic health records.

The GLN can be used throughout the world with no need for trading partners to assign proprietary numbers to ensure uniqueness. It saves time and money, as the number can be moved quickly and confidently through the supply chain. The GLN may be assigned to any location, ensuring ultimate flexibility to meet the needs or requirements of all businesses anywhere in the world (from loading docks to aircraft carriers to circuit boards in a router).

“And the beauty of this system is that it doesn’t stop with these 13 digits,” observes CHeS Chairman Dennis Byer. GLNs also enable users/customers to leverage the full functionality of the GS1 system. GLNs can be encoded in GS1-128 bar codes and physically marked onto trade units to identify the parties involved in the transaction (buyer, supplier), transport units (consignor and consignee), and physical locations (place of delivery, place of departure, and point of storage). “The patient safety proposition is equally compelling, and the role that such data will be able to play in future efforts to establish unique device identifiers makes this dual outcome quite possibly the greatest source of savings and patient safety in years,” says Byer.

Let’s move the health care supply chain into the 21st Century. Remember, It Just Takes 1.

About the Author

Curtis Rooney
Curtis Rooney is president of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association, www.supplychainassociation.org
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