by Sachidanantham Swaminathan
The healthcare world is full of complexities and uncertainties. In particular, the absence of coding standardization impeding the end-to-end traceability of medical products is a global concern. It has a direct impact on ensuring safe care. Furthermore, the ongoing pandemic has increased the need for vaccine and medical products traceability using global standards for product codes. It has proved that a health system cannot work efficiently without interoperability, transparency and visibility.
Around the world, supply chain visibility in the healthcare sector is a matter of life and death. The pharmaceutical sector faces numerous challenges, including quality, inability to reduce stock-outs, expirations, and wastages, and the difficulty in recalling faulty items. Obstacles in procurement planning, demand forecasting, and inventory management are other issues the industry faces.
Any medical product goes through various stakeholders before reaching its final destination. Each stage adds a new level of complexity. The movement of pharmaceutical products needs continuous monitoring as they move in the supply chain. However, the lack of product code standardization affects this process and leads to inefficient handling of records. In addition, improper record-keeping can make it challenging to map the journey of products in the supply chain leading to unwanted risks like counterfeiting.
Absence of an end-to-end visibility in the supply chain can misplace records of expiry dates, batch numbers, manufacturer details, compositions used, etc. This imposes a greater risk of inability to effectively recall a batch of drugs. Recalling products that have already been released into the market is a considerable concern. The inability to complete the recall procedure leads to the use of faulty and damaged products, which can cause mortality.
Let’s understand how this happen most often. Due to the lack of standardized codes, chemists and pharmacists use proprietary barcodes on drugs to speed up billing, leading to a variety of manual errors. These mistakes create issues such as confirming, recognizing and rejecting any expired or damaged product, jeopardizing patient safety.
The above reasons conclude why there is a need for ubiquitous standardized coding to identify drugs in the supply chain. Medical products manufacturers and other stakeholders should embrace global standards for end-to-end visibility in the supply chain to ensure the product’s integrity, reduce risks and foster trust in the public.
This would also help in furthering Ayushman Bharat’s mission of creating the world’s best health assurance program on an efficient and technologically robust ecosystem. This would require unique identification of drugs, medical devices and relating the same with patient IDs as stored in electronic health records.
The benefits of product code standardization are manifold, starting with increased supply chain efficiencies, improved visibility of medicines in the supply chain and enhanced patient safety. Global standards lay the foundation of the
Sachidanantham Swaminathan, CEO, GS1 India
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