Supply chain is crucial for healthcare

30th September 2012, The Sunday Business Post, Best Business Healthcare


Healthcare systems around the globe are facing challenges that affect the entire supply chain, from healthcare providers back along through group purchasing organisations, distributors and wholesalers to the manufacturers of pharmaceutical products and clinical devices.

The entire sector is concerned primarily with two main issues: greater supply chain efficiency and accuracy and through that contributing to better patient safety. ‘‘There are many elements of innovative technologies which other industries have developed that offer enormous potential to the healthcare sector,’’ said Mike Byrne, chief executive of GS1 Ireland. ‘‘Everyone in business is now aware of ‘track & trace’ as a most useful service in logistics, for example, and also of traceability - a critical requirement in dealing with human medicines.

"Exactly the same concepts underpin many aspects of management and administration in healthcare systems. The facility to identify things uniquely and accurately is essential - be it a medication, an item of clinical equipment or even a patient."

The regulatory landscape continues to evolve in healthcare globally. New regulations in the EU, the US and elsewhere will have a major direct impact on the healthcare supply chain. All stakeholders will have to implement automatic identification technologies, electronic product catalogues, traceability systems and serialisation with a unique serial number on each package or product,where appropriate.

GS1 Ireland is part of GS1 (Global Standards 1) the global supply chain standards agency. Established in 1974 to provide standards for barcode scanning at point of sale, GS1 is a not-for-profit organisation with over 1.3 million members supported by 110 offices worldwide. It is dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally, and across sectors.

GS1 Ireland has proposed a National Product Catalogue for the healthcare and related sectors which would serve the needs of all of the stakeholders, from manufacturers and vendors to health professionals and state and private sector procurement. ‘‘In the healthcare sector in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, the synchronisation of accurate product data in a standardised national catalogue is the key component of e-procurement,’’ said Byrne.

The scale is indicated by the more than €4 billion in goods and services purchased by the health service annually in Ireland.That covers an estimated 67,000 product codes from 8,500 suppliers for 21,000 internal customers. ‘‘Recent reports have highlighted the requirement for improved data accuracy and an integrated approach to master data management to ensure full visibility across the supply chain. ‘‘There is currently a wide range of procurement systems and product identification in use in the health service today,’’ said Byrne, ‘‘and a national product catalogue for healthcare addresses the lack of integration and resolves any potential for inconsistent information and error."