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Developing universal standards for health-care data

A decision support tool developed by researchers at the University of Arkansas will help health-care providers understand and adopt universal standards for identifying materials, locations and partners within the complex U.S. health-care system.
Vetted by several large health-care providers nationwide, the Levels, Readiness and Impact Model is a free, user-friendly and downloadable tool in a spreadsheet format. This spreadsheet guides providers through planning for adoption of emerging GS1 global data standards. GS1 is a global organization that designs and implements product standards to improve supply-chain efficiency. The health-care sector of GS1 developed global tradeitem numbers, or GTINs, and global location numbers, or GLNs, which some hospitals and health-care providers have already adopted.

The Levels, Readiness and Impact Model software helps healthcare providers by listing the investments needed for the user’s chosen path to implement adoption of the standards and quantifying the benefits expected in terms of efficiency, accuracy and staff needed.
“Retail and other industries adopted universal standards decades ago with the familiar uniform product barcode on almost every label,” said Ron Rardin, center director and Distinguished Professor of industrial engineering. “But health care has not followed suit, and the unfortunate result is a lot of confusion, waste and risk to patients.

The health-care supply chain is a network of information and logistics within the broad spectrum of health care in the United States and worldwide. In addition to direct health-care providers such as acute-care hospitals and long-term facilities, surgical and diagnostic centers, physicians’ clinics, pharmacies and other facilities, the health-care supply chain includes laboratories, equipment and software manufacturers, suppliers and distributors. Group-purchasing organizations, which are businesses within the health-care supply chain formed to increase purchasing or bargaining power for bulk supplies, also play an integral role.

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