Sharing What’s Meaningful

Global e-standards will help drive supply chain modernization

JHC-Feb2016iStock_000009038683_FullThe secure exchange of data between everyday electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, has changed the way we access important personal information.

This ability to access and integrate data from across systems empowers instant and informed decision-making in everyday life, and is also changing how we make decisions when it matters most – in medical situations. But continued progress is not a given, and more must be done to ensure the implementation of global electronic standards (e-standards), which will help ensure all healthcare systems are sharing the meaningful data that allows providers to give first-rate patient care.

Already, advances in health information technology (HIT) and access to meaningful data have precipitated a revolution in the healthcare supply chain. Technological innovation is helping to bring about a world in which a defective pacemaker can be instantly traced to the patient in whom it was implanted or where a patient’s entire health history can be easily accessed by clinicians across different healthcare systems.

Systems talking to each other
There are still several critical steps that policymakers and other supply chain stakeholders must take, however, to fully realize the potential of this data-driven revolution.

One challenge facing HIT systems is that they are often “locked” from connecting and exchanging information with other electronic health record (EHR) systems. Sharing information across EHRs, known as HIT interoperability, is essential for comprehensive care. One way to expand HIT interoperability would be to deploy a common data architecture that requires open-source standards, such as application programming interfaces that provide a secure platform to efficiently and affordably integrate data across a variety of systems.

To reap the benefits of interoperability, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) unique device identification (UDI) system for medical devices should be included as part of interoperable EHRs.

UDIs improve patient care by creating a more rapid notification system for critical recalls. UDIs are captured at the point of device procurement and then tracked through delivery, receipt, and distribution within a hospital system. If a product is deemed faulty, the UDI can be easily pinpointed in the supply chain and the malfunctioning or flawed product is quickly taken off market. Once implemented, UDIs will also help improve order accuracy and create more efficient access to billing and claims information, which will generate $16 billion in annual healthcare savings, according to recent FDA estimates.

For their part, industry stakeholders could help further UDI implementation by leveraging GS1 Standards, which provide a common language to identify, capture, and share information across the global supply chain. This includes Global Location Numbers (GLNs) for identifying locations of a product or item within the supply chain; Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), which identify each product item; and automatic identification and data capture technology, enabling Global Trade Item Numbers to be scanned into information systems such as EHRs. Each of these methods will greatly improve patient care by creating real-time tracking of products and items both in the United States and internationally.

Curt Miller at CHeS
The Committee for Healthcare e-Standards (CHeS), an arm of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA) working to advance these critical policies, recently named Curt Miller as its new executive director. Miller previously served as chief information officer for Amerinet Inc. (now Intalere), where for 10 years he was responsible for the company’s information systems strategy, application development, network infrastructure, data management, and unified communications.

Upon taking leadership of CHeS, Miller emphasized his commitment to helping the healthcare industry improve its accuracy, efficiency, and safety through the application of e-standards in the supply chain.

“Adoption of comprehensive healthcare e-standards will make device, provider, and patient data accessible and interoperable across systems – enabling use and sharing of information to help providers, manufacturers, and distributors operate efficiently and make critical care decisions with the full spectrum of information,” said Miller.

Global e-standards are bringing patient care into the 21st century, increasing a provider’s ability to make important decisions seamlessly and with all the relevant data. But the gains of the HIT revolution are not a given, and policymakers and supply chain stakeholders should take action now to ensure that the data-driven revolution leads to more patient-centered care.

Todd Ebert, R.Ph., is the president and CEO of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association.