Indian healthcare systems are continuously working to deal with COVID-19 crisis that brings us unpredictability and a large-scale challenge in mobilisation of resources.
It has left no stone unturned in disrupting the supply chains across the world and the healthcare sector is no exception. The disruptions led to:
Shortage of medical supplies/drugs
Non-availability of essential and life-saving medicines
Restrictions on import of raw materials and ingredients (APIs) required by pharmaceutical companies to manufacture medicines
Subpar quality of medicines supplied locally
One of the major reasons behind inadequate and disparate availability of drugs and healthcare services is the fact that we don’t have supply chain visibility since the data on patients, drugs and supplies is unstructured and lack compatibility and interoperability with systems/applications used by other trading partners in the supply chain.
To build a robust healthcare system, we need to focus on bringing right medicines to the right patients, ensuring patient safety, and efficient exchange of data on electronic health records between hospitals.
To address this challenge, many developed and developing nations rely on centralised repositories and systems to ensure proper delivery of drugs/supplies and healthcare infrastructure to patients in need.
Government also acknowledged these challenges. As a result, the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) is working on developing the Digital Healthcare standards.
GS1 is a global supply chain standards organisation that is working closely with healthcare stakeholders in government & private organisations for achieving patient safety through efficient data exchange between healthcare stakeholders, anti-counterfeit mechanisms, and recall standards.
In the past, GS1 India has worked closely with Insurance Information Bureau for development of ROHINI (Registry of Hospitals in Network of Insurers), using global standards. ROHINI functions as a centralised repository of hospital information for fast processing of insurance claims. The same platform could also be extended to consumers to have visibility on the availability of hospital beds, treatments offered, cost brackets, etc., to ease things out for patients during the crisis.
The registry can further facilitate national, State, and regional level analytical reporting on healthcare aspects like geography-based trends, patterns of disease occurrence, and cost patterns, etc. This information will help in creating policies at national and State level and saves a lot of time and resources in finding the information.
Another big challenge for healthcare
Reports released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United States Trade Representative(USTR), mentioned the wide distribution of counterfeit products in domestic supply chains. As the times are challenging, we need to be vigilant and make sure only verified and genuine products reach patients.
With its efforts, GS1 – the global Standards organisation, aims to solve this by developing standards to identify each unit of product uniquely. This would facilitate in detecting and arresting counterfeits as soon as it enters the supply chain. GS1 standards ensure that medicines are tracked and traced with proper serialization. Also, the automatic ID capturing methods like barcoding ensures that information encoded is captured instantly, without leaving any scope for manual errors. This information can be shared by each trading partner in the supplying chain to ensure complete transparency.
GS1 India has also partnered with ASPA (Authentication Solution Providers Association) to take the fight against counterfeit products to the next level and ensure that brand owners benefit with the adoption of standards based anti-counterfeiting solutions. This could also be extended to consumers for product authentication using its Smart Consumer mobile app.
GS1 India is also working with several State and central government bodies for improving operational efficiency and patient safety through the use of inventory management, track and trace, logistic solutions
Medical errors gets reduced to a large extent
GS1 standards strive to minimise medical errors in several ways, including:
When adopted by hospitals, they help monitor that the right dosage is delivered to the patient at the right time.
Enable accurate information about medical products to be recorded in electronic medical records
GS1 has a framework in which each of the medical drugs is uniquely identified and associated with the batch number of the drug. This facilitates counterfeit detection and product authentication.
All of this, and more, will help us to reduce medication errors by around 50%. In pure numbers the lives impacted and potentially saved is in millions.
Other advantages of using global supply chain standards
One system for global and domestic supplies – The use of global identification standards would result in adoption of one identification system for domestic as well as global supplies. This is because GS1 standards are already being endorsed by various regulatory bodies across the globe, including The US Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA), EU Falsified Medicines Directive, EU UDI, etc.
Digital transformation- Adoption of GS1 standards makes business processes automatic, as compared to manual, leaving no scope for manual errors.
Enhanced efficiency of business processes- Organisations using GS1 standards and solutions have reported a significant increase in their operational efficiencies for supply chain processes such as ordering, receiving, despatches, stock monitoring, etc.
GS1 standards are used/endorsed globally by organisations as well regulatory bodies. It’s time for Indian businesses and government take a look at the best practices among their global counterparts and adopt the same.
(The author is COO, GS1 India. Views expressed are personal.)
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