Canadian Packaging

The Rx for healthcare supply chains


July 26, 2010
by Purchasingb2b Staff

What’s the prescription for healthcare supply chains?

According to most Canadian healthcare institutions and their suppliers, it’s a uniform national approach to barcoding products and sharing administrative data electronically based on GS1 standards.

This is a key takeaway of a recent survey conducted by Innovative Research Group Inc.

The survey—called the Canadian Healthcare Supply Chain Standards Survey—polled 294 Canadian healthcare sector stakeholders, representing healthcare institutions, shared services organizations and product suppliers.

Of the respondents, 89 percent of healthcare institutions and 75 percent of suppliers believe that harmonizing healthcare product identification practices and inventory management processes using GS1 standards will improve patient safety and generate system-wide cost savings.

It’s perhaps promising that respondents were so keen on change, because the survey also suggested sluggish adoption of leading supply chain technologies and practices.

Just 52 percent of healthcare institutions and 72 percent of suppliers either use or plan to use barcodes in the next two years to capture, store, retrieve and transmit information about medical-surgical products.

And only 48 percent of healthcare providers and 40 percent of product suppliers have implemented or are currently implementing a strategic initiative to increase interoperability with supply chain partners.

“At a time when Canadian healthcare budgets are being frozen and governments are working to address chronic deficits, these findings demonstrate that the healthcare sector is ready to embrace a more sustainable, innovative approach to managing the flow of products and related information in the healthcare supply chain,” said Alicia Duval, senior vice-president, healthcare, GS1 Canada.

“A coordinated approach to modernizing the healthcare supply chain through use of globally-recognized GS1 standards is a crucial step in improving the way healthcare services in Canada are delivered, ultimately enhancing the quality of patient care.”

According to David Loukras, provincial director, performance, integration and transformation for the British Columbia Health Authority Shared Services Organization and co-chair of GS1 Canada’s Carenet Healthcare Sector Board, effective healthcare management transcends provincial borders.

“Healthcare delivery may be managed provincially, but the products we use and the suppliers we interact with come from across Canada and internationally,” he said.

“Coming from a provincial supply chain organization, it is absolutely critical that healthcare institutions and suppliers are speaking the same language when it comes to ordering the products distributed throughout our healthcare facilities and used in patient care.”

The survey is part of the Canadian Healthcare Supply Chain Standards Project, a national initiative spearheaded by GS1 Canada in collaboration with industry and government.