Identifying A Single Point of Truth Across the Healthcare Supply Chain: The Role of GTINs in healthcare data management

February 20, 2023

3 minute read

Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) ensure that a hospital has accurate and up-to-date information on medical devices through the healthcare supply chain. These unique identification numbers are assigned to each device by the manufacturer, and are used to accurately track and identify the device throughout its entire lifecycle, from entering the hospital to being used on a patient. GTINs are bar codes that are unique to each product within the healthcare industry; however, their use is drastically lower than similar retail applications. Why? Because manually adding individual GTINs to a sizeable, constantly changing item master is time-consuming and tedious. Symmetric Health Solutions is on the cutting edge of increasing adoption and therefore speeding up procurement and charge activities by enriching the item masters with their comprehensive database of GTINs.

In the past, hospitals needed help maintaining accurate and up-to-date information on their medical devices. This help was sought by seeking data from manufacturers, distributors, GPOs, and regulatory entities like the FDA and GUDID. However, with so many different devices in use and new technologies constantly emerging, it can be difficult to keep track of which devices are in use, which need to be reordered, and which have been phased out. This is where GTINs come in.

By assigning a unique GTIN to each device, manufacturers are able to provide hospitals with a single point of truth for tracking and identifying devices as they move through a hospital. This makes it much easier for hospitals to keep their item master up to date, and to quickly and easily identify devices that need to be reordered.

GTINs also play an essential role in tracking items across procurement and charge. By assigning a unique GTIN to each device, hospitals can track the usage and cost of each device more accurately. This is particularly important for devices used frequently or at a high cost, as it allows hospitals to more effectively manage their budgets and ensure they get the most value for their money.

Beyond saving money, using GTINs at the point of care provides clinicians with a rich data set to improve patient safety. Connecting individual patient records to specific devices creates the unique opportunity to follow long term patient outcomes, identify trends in device usage and outcomes by procedure, demographic, location, etc., quickly notify individuals impacted by recalls, and easily identify recalled devices currently in hospital inventories. This data could be a spark that drives innovation in the medical device industry, so that things like recalls and malfunctions become less prevalent. The gap between new recalls and patient notification could be reduced from months or over a year to days or weeks. New, automated systems could be created, similar to those used by car manufacturers when a recall is issued so that the impacts of device malfunctions are minimized.

GTINS are a vital tool for hospitals, enabling them to improve their medical device inventory management efficiency and accuracy and increase patient safety. By providing a single point of truth for tracking and identifying devices, GTINs make it much easier for hospitals to keep their medical devices in order, quickly and easily identify devices that need to be reordered or that are recalled, and quickly notify patients when they are impacted by a recall, which ultimately leads to better care for patients.