Why can’t we agree upon standardized product identifiers within healthcare organizations?
During the 2018 GHX Healthcare Supply Chain Summit, Terrie L. Reed, M.S. Industrial Engineering, FDA senior advisor for UDI Adoption, and Susan A. Morris, healthcare executive at Cerner, facilitated a discussion around the challenges that are holding healthcare providers back from implementing unique device identifiers (UDI) for products used in patient care. While many leading health systems and hospitals have begun using UDIs within their supply chain operations, there is still much work to do and obstacles to overcome in order to bridge the UDI over to the clinical side of care.
One problem is that supply chain and clinicians need to document products in different ways, for example, the product’s unit of measure (UOM). While receiving and distribution personnel may be handling and documenting “cases” or “boxes” of a product within the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, the clinician end users need to document a single product used on a patient within the electronic health record (EHR) system. Because manufacturers enumerate products with UDIs at each packaging level down to the lowest unit of use (UOU), the UDI for an “each” is different from that of a “box” or a “case.”
Supply chain owns the data in the ERP, so when they use a product’s UDI within the item master, that becomes the source of truth for supply chain operations. Healthcare organizations are attempting to use the item master as the product data source of truth for clinical documentation as well (e.g. EHR). Challenges arise because what supply chain needs in terms of product information (e.g. UDI, related attributes) differs from what is needed by the clinical team. That goes back to the UOM issue above – when a clinician scans a product barcode at the point of use they need to document the UDI at the “each” level and not at the “box” level. So how does a hospital or health system implement product UDIs to meet the needs of all stakeholders? The answer is still unclear and one that requires collaboration.
During the presentation, Reed noted how these are the types of challenges that healthcare organizations, manufacturers and others (e.g. the FDA, GPOs, supply chain service providers, IT system vendors) are working to overcome as part of the Association for Health Care Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM) Learning UDI Community (LUC).
The AHRMM website provides a variety of LUC resources, including reports from the LUC work groups, individual healthcare organization case studies and webcasts on UDI related topics.