Considering the impact and benefits of Unique Device Identification (UDI) for Australian hospitals and patients

GS1 Australia
By Catherine Koetz, Director – Healthcare, GS1 Australia
Wednesday, 05 April, 2023


Considering the impact and benefits of Unique Device Identification (UDI) for Australian hospitals and patients

With new Unique Device Identifier (UDI) regulations pending in Australia, now is the time for health providers and hospitals to understand the benefits to their organisations and patients and to start to planning. Here are some points to start the process.

What are the potential benefits of UDI implementation?

The benefits are many but have dependencies on technical capability. For those organisations that are less digitally enabled and without a clinically integrated supply chain it may take longer to realise the benefits. Some known benefits:

  • Improved patient safety and outcomes: Through more accurate and efficient tracking of medical devices and equipment used in patient care, reducing the risk of errors and adverse events.
  • Traceability-enabled recall automation: By identifying and tracking devices through to the patient system-based processes can be used to speed up and more accurately manage recalls.
  • Enhanced supply chain management: By providing consistent baseline identification of all medical devices inventory can be more effectively managed in real-time, knowing the location, status, and usage of medical devices. Reduction of waste, optimised ordering and restocking processes can be improved, leading to cost savings.
  • Better data analytics and decision-making: The use of UDI can provide a rich source of data for analysis and decision-making not only within hospitals but also for the whole health system.

How will UDI implementation in Australia benefit patients in the future?

The changes that the implementation will bring within care settings will be mirrored in benefits for Australian patients and their care teams. The most immediate improvements to patient safety, greater accuracy of medical records and recalls management are obvious. The flow of support for research and ongoing improvements to how care is provided and managed — including supporting ‘value based’ methodologies — is significant.

What actions should Australian hospitals and health provider organisations take to prepare for the regulations and maximise their organisation and patient benefits?

Ahead of the release of regulations related to the UDI system, several actions would be recommended. The below are a start, as each organisation considers their digital maturity across the patient pathway and supply chains.

  • Assess readiness: Hospitals should assess their readiness for implementing UDI within their processes by reviewing their existing technology solutions, supply chain management processes, clinical processes and staff training programs. This should identify areas that require improvement or significant changes and enable organisations to prioritise actions accordingly. Understanding the contact points between the supply chain and clinical processes.
  • Engage with suppliers: Hospitals and health providers should engage with their suppliers to ensure that they are aware of the impending regulations and the need to move towards compliance with the UDI requirements for medical devices. The regulations will have different impacts and timeframes based on the type of device and risk. Ensuring alignment and inclusion in category management and sourcing discussions will help to drive early compliance and benefits.
  • UDI implementation knowledge within core teams: Hospitals should ensure sufficient UDI knowledge within teams that are managing core programs related to the supply chain and any areas of clinical integration such as Electronic Patient Records.
  • Develop implementation plans to embed within transformation programs: Many hospitals and health provider organisations are already undertaking significant transformation projects related to inventory management, procure to pay, reimbursement and patient records. It is important within the organisation’s Project Management Offices a review of projects is completed to identify points where UDI changes will be relevant and then collaborate with teams. Any plans should include timelines and milestones, as well as risk management strategies. Projects that are impacted could include technology updates across organisations, barcode scanning deployment to ensure support for the global data standards, supply chain transformation programs, patient records, theatre management and staff training.
  • Managing the change messaging: Ideally, any impact of UDI should be incorporated into training plans, versus requiring separate activities as this will ensure it is seen as part of how they work versus something else they have to do. Covering the purpose and benefits of the UDI system, how to capture UDI data using barcode scanning technology, and the use of UDI data to improve patient safety and supply chain management are simple messages that can be woven into existing plans.

Where should hospitals and health providers start their preparation?

Australian hospitals and health providers can take several actions to prepare, including assessing readiness, engaging with suppliers, establishing implementation teams, developing implementation plans, providing staff training, and monitoring compliance. By taking these actions they can ensure that they are well prepared to maximise the benefits for patient safety and business operations.

We recommend organisations start by finding out more from the Therapeutical Goods Administration (TGA).

Email: udi@health.gov.au

Learn more

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