The Health Industry Group Purchasing Association and the Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management are asking federal officials to consider adoption of two identification standards used in the health care supply chain.

National adoption of the standards and their integration into electronic health records and supply chain management systems can increase patient safety while bringing efficiencies to the supply chain side, the associations wrote in a letter to David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology. "Without data standards in this area, it is virtually impossible to efficiently recall devices and other supplies and that can lead to grave injury and even death."

The standards are from the international GS1 Healthcare development organization. They are the Global Location Number to identify the location of a product or service (even down to bins, shelves, peg holes or racks), and the Global Trade Item Number to identify specific products or services.

What follows is text of the letter:

"On behalf of the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association (HIGPA) and the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM) of the American Hospital Association, we are writing to inform you about an important initiative underway that utilizes health information technology and data standards and will result in increased patient safety and gain significant efficiencies in the healthcare supply chain.  We want to make you aware of this initiative, as it has significant relevance to clinical care and electronic health records (EHRs).

"Today, manufacturers, wholesalers/distributors, suppliers, group purchasing organizations, hospitals, and physicians each record and track product information differently, opening the flood gates for medical errors that severely impact patient safety and the quality of care.  Without data standards in this area, it is virtually impossible to efficiently recall devices and other supplies and that can lead to grave injury and even death.

"HIGPA, AHRMM, and GS1 Healthcare US work closely together to encourage the adoption throughout the healthcare industry of the GS1 Global Location Number (GLN) for organizational identification (by the end of year 2010) and Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) for product identification (by the end of year 2012).  The FDA is currently working on regulations that will create standards for medical device identifiers.

"Adopting these standards will ensure that medical products, services, and locations all have unique identifiers.  The resulting supply chain improvement will translate into the delivery of improved clinical services, creating a tracking system for health care products and devices that will be traceable from "product to patient."

"It is a matter of great importance that these standards be supported by the EHR.  Care will only be improved if this is the case.  For instance, if EHRs are able to support the use of product identifiers, then recalls will be undertaken with greater ease, and physicians and patients will be informed immediately.

"We are interested to learn how your office may support these standards and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your staff.  Our organizations would be pleased to provide additional information and to work with you to ensure investments in the EHR will incorporate these important patient safety requirements.  GS1 Standards ensure the right product for the right patient, at the right time, through the right route, and in the right dose!"

--Joseph Goedert

 

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