‘Scan for Surgery’ improves patient safety

Risks to patient safety occur when there is a mismatch between a patient and the care they receive. GS1’s Director of Innovation and Healthcare, Siobhain Duggan outlines how GS1 unique identifiers can improve outcomes.

Errors can occur at time of diagnosis, treatment or on-going care. When looking at how technology can improve patient safety, we don’t need to look very far. The retail sector has demonstrated the value of adopting GS1 standard barcoding, which has reshaped these industries and created billions of dollars in value.

McKinsey & Co research states: “The potential impact enabled by global standards goes well beyond the use cases that we can identify and quantify today. For example, with global standards in place, payors, regulators and epidemiologists could learn more about the effectiveness of drugs, medical devices and treatments, improving health and yielding savings at the institutional and even national level.” (Strength in unity: The promise of global standards in healthcare, October 2012).

Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is leading the way as part of the Scan4Safety programme. They have developed an in-theatre usage and procedure level costing system using GS1 barcodes to capture the patient, staff, instrument trays, scopes, products, consumables and the time used in an operation, leading to a significant reduction of the volume of stock held and the ability to have accurate cost data. They have barcodes for the procedures (OPCS/HIPE codes) as well as barcodes to track co-morbidities. This enables the capture, at the point of use, of every single detail of the procedure using compliant barcodes.

Speaking about GS1 standards and how they transform the procurement, inventory management and supply chain efficiency of the health care industry, Kevin Downs, Director of Finance and Performance at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Having worked in the retail industry, I understand the value of GS1 standards and how they can improve patient safety, and reduce costs at the same time, whilst providing real management information to address clinical variation.”

When recalls take place, the Trust can now easily identify all products that are held within the Trust, thus preventing their use. This process of scanning everything in the theatre also has additional benefits. Clinical staff can spend more time with patients. The rich data available facilitates ‘fact based discussions’ with clinicians and staff. Procedures are being coded more accurately and consistently so money is not lost due to missing procedure codes.

New regulations on traceability of medical devices and pharmaceuticals in the EU, the US and elsewhere are driving a harmonised standard for identification in healthcare. In recognition of this the NHS eProcurement strategy has mandated that every product procured by an NHS Trust has to be identified with GS1 standards.

At a National level, the HSE is also making significant progress to embed the GS1 Identifiers for products, patients, staff and locations within their systems. This work is key to the development of the new Electronic Health Record. “The adoption of GS1 coding standards is viewed as a very important priority to ensure best practices and safety for patients” – says the HSE’s Head of Procurement John Swords. A recent audit of the National Distribution Centre indicated that 80 per cent of the products have a GS1 unique identifier (barcode).

St James’s Hospital, Dublin is leading the way with its ‘Scan for Surgery’ project which was recently awarded ‘Best use of IT’ at the Irish Healthcare Awards. This project is similar to the Scan4Safety work being done in Derby with a focus on the benefits for patient safety, operational efficiency and patient level costing analytics based on GS1 standards for traceability. Suppliers are invited to get involved.

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