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Premier Tells Medical Device Makers to Adopt GS1 Supply Chain Standards

The hospital purchasing alliance wants medical devices to be tracked by Global Trade Item Number and Global Location Number, which could make it easier for the health-care sector to implement RFID technology.
By Beth Bacheldor
In addition, a UDI system could be employed to facilitate device recalls, improve medical device reporting and identify device incompatibilities or potential allergic reactions. By year's end, the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) hopes to issue draft specifications for such a system (see U.S. FDA Seeks Research for Medical Device Tracking System).

Neither Premier nor the Food and Drug Administration specify RFID's use in their initiatives, but the FDA has been studying radio frequency identification. Both Premier's and the FDA's initiatives could work with bar codes (which would have the GTINs and GLNs printed on them) or RFID tags (which could have the numbers both printed and encoded on them). RFID tags, of course, would eliminate the need for manual, line-of-sight scanning of each product to collect the product numbers that are uploaded into the GDSN.

According to Pleasant, manufacturers, distributors and hospitals will be able to decide which technology, including RFID, they prefer to use. "We think that there are [applications] where RFID is advantageous and should be the way to go, and we think there are [applications] where bar codes would be just as efficient," he explains. "There isn't one particular statement that you can make—use RFID for this and bar code for that—because it all depends on the applications and processes an organization has set up, and their particular needs."

But by implementing standardized numbering systems and a global repository to store and access data, Pleasant notes, health-care organizations will have a consistent way to obtain information. What's more, the standards should make it easier to leverage RFID technology for automatically tracking and identifying products as they traverse the supply chain.

By requiring suppliers to support GTINs and GLNs on the products they sell to Premier's hospital group, all parties will be working with a consistent numbering scheme to ensure product data matches up across the supply chain, from manufacturers through distributors to customers. And the GDSN aligns those numbers with product and manufacturer information across all supply chain partners. Thus, organizations can easily fold RFID into the mix without having to first establish numbering schemes and a standard, global repository.

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