'Scan4Safety' in Australia — Preparing for what comes next

GS1 Australia
Tuesday, 29 March, 2022


Global data standards enable greater visibility, traceability and improved accuracy within healthcare supply chains around the world. The unique identification and other structures they provide are vital for healthcare not only in explicitly identifying a product so it can be located or traced throughout the supply chain, or by providing the ability to accurately and unambiguously identify a patient to ensure that the right patient is given the right treatment, but also in ensuring that event-based data can be captured and shared consistently throughout.

The accuracy of identity (people, products, places) has never been more important as we continue to digitalise even more of our processes to support patients and clinical teams across ever-widening networks. The work to build an interoperable framework of data that can be utilised across the many providers of care and support the patient themselves remains critical. So too, the increased focus on traceability of products to ensure their authenticity, enabled post-market activities and manage risks that became obvious within the past two years.

Did the tide change in healthcare thanks to Covid?

Covid has taught us many things. The intersection between the healthcare supply chain and the patient must ensure accuracy and safety as well as eliminate the unnecessary loss of time for clinical staff, this is given. If nothing else the pandemic highlighted many of the gaps in the processes and capability of health providers around the country and the amount of reworking and manual interventions that have been needed to be carried out by clinical staff to deliver the best care to patients. With so much pressure on our amazing clinical teams around the country, having them spend more time than necessary on supply chain-related processes is a luxury that the system simply cannot afford.

Healthcare supply chains must be well managed throughout to ensure we eliminate wasteful practices and ensure accuracy at the intersection with the patient in care settings. They must also maintain minimum levels of traceability (unambiguous product identification and batch) and visibility for the majority of products so that we can be more responsive and utilise more technology.

Many of the health providers around the country (public and private) have been undertaking digital health programs, many too have undertaken some supply chain improvement programs, but few are considering how the two interconnect within the care setting, in that final step in the traceability of a product, the one that counts the most, where products are used as part of treatment.

Terminology and coding versus unambiguous identification — is it a choice of one or the other?

The utilisation of terminology and codification to normalise data within clinical systems using global data standards such as Snomed is a key part of creating interoperable data within patient records, and we see this in an even more pronounced way as work continues to enable internationally recognised patient summaries and data structures. But while clinically we only need to generically record that a patient was given a specific type of medicinal product, as one example, there is still a need to record the product itself against the patient to verify correct product dose but also to ensure that accurate records related to product performance are possible.

The changes to medical implants mean that actual products must now be recorded against patient records and information provided to patients. Future changes in regulations to implement Unique Device Identification (UDI) based on global standards and replace the use of non-unique supplier codes will make further significant changes in this area. The use of terminologies and classifications all have their place but so too does the accurate and unambiguous recording of the products identified.

Is it time for a scaled ‘Scan4Safety’ program in Australia to ensure consistency? Is this part of what comes next?

Although countries like England have formed national programs to ensure that all health providers have the same baseline approach to managing identity as part of their standards frameworks Australia has been less inclined to do so. Granted this is in part because of the structure of our health system but the question remains as to whether we are missing some enormous opportunities in failing to do so?

Across all of the sites that have implemented ‘Scan4Safety’ across the UK (England, Scotland and Wales) and Ireland the documented results in improvements to patient safety, returned clinical hours to care, reductions in waste and the rich data created to help make management decisions are astounding.

Some of the details of benefits are contained within the Scan4Safety evidence report ‘Improving patient safety and saving money using point-of-care scanning in the NHS’. Locally in Australia, the ACT has been working towards taking a similar approach as part of their digital transformation program, so too NSW Health signalled their intent when they developed their state-wide barcoding standard. But what of the rest of the system? And how could we further vision the ’Scan4Safety’ approach not only within hospital settings but also within our aged care and community care? The opportunities are endless.

Find out more here: Healthcare - GS1 Australia

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/wladimir1804

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