Fueling Data Standardization in Healthcare

May 8, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

I’m currently attending the GHX Healthcare Supply Chain Summit in Orlando where a hot topic is data standardization in healthcare – ensuring that everyone (hospitals, cialis buy manufacturers, distributors, GPOs) is identifying the same organizations, locations and products in the same way. There has been a great deal of talk around this issue over the past few years, but efforts seem to have stalled. At the GHX Global Data Standards User Group meeting yesterday, audience members voiced their opinion on why the industry is failing to standardize on a broad scale. Roadblocks include:

  • Lack of Education: A representative from a hospital stated that lack of education around global data standards enablement has prevented the industry from moving forward. “We may get it, but our C-suite doesn’t get it and how do we get them to invest in something that they know nothing about?”
  • No Business Case for Standards Adoption: It seemed that everyone in the audience agreed that there is currently no proven business case for standardizing healthcare data. How do you get C-level executives to invest in data standardization if there is no proof of ROI?
  • Internal Complexity and Costs: A representative from a medical device manufacturer stated that product data standardization (transitioning from internal, proprietary product numbers to an industry standard) would impact every aspect of her organization (IT, inventory, distribution network, packaging, marketing, etc.). “Getting everyone moving in one direction is a costly, complex process and I don’t even know who would lead this effort internally.”

Everyone knows that data standardization has the potential to improve patient care and reduce costs by ensuring that the right products are delivered to the right locations in the right quantities at the right prices – reducing errors and the cost/labor required to address supply chain discrepancies in business transactions between trading partners. But within an industry struggling with so many challenges – increased costs (supply, labor etc.), dwindling reimbursements, healthcare reform requirements – few have the time and resources to tackle data standardization – especially when there is little evidence that these efforts will significantly cut costs.

Representatives from GHX shared information on a number of initiatives that should help get healthcare data standards back on track. They include:

  • GS1 White Paper: GS1 recognizes that healthcare providers and suppliers need a solid business case for standards that they can present to the C-suite to secure resources for data standardization within their organizations. GS1 is currently developing a white paper that presents the benefits that other industries (e.g. retail, consumer packaged goods) have derived from data standardization and how healthcare can take lessons learned from these industries to develop a business case and roadmap to industry-wide adoption.
  • C-Suite Messaging: While most supply chain teams within healthcare provider and supplier organizations recognize how data standardization can increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve patient care, selling standards enablement to the C-suite is an uphill battle because of lack of knowledge around standards and the lack of a solid business case for standards adoption. GS1 is working to develop messaging geared to the C-suite that supply chain managers can use to help gain support for data standardization within their organizations.
  • Technology: GHX is working with its members to understand what they need to support standards enablement so that it can offer solutions that simplify data standardization and synchronization between trading partners. This includes the development of a single consolidated data feed to support not only e-commerce, but also emerging regulations, such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Unique Device Identification (UDI) system.

“Part of the reason why so many people are in the room today is that we realize standards are definitely needed,” said one medical device manufacturer. “But we’ve got to find ways to get the knowledge and benefits from standardized data without having to rip out everything that we already have in place.”

Kara L. Nadeau

Founder and President of KLN Communications, Inc.