How can UDI help the COVID-19 response

July 2, 2020

3 minute read

COVID-19 has highlighted challenges in supply chains across the world, and none more so than in healthcare supply chains. Hospitals needed to quickly track their current inventory and react to changes in the availability of the medical supplies they purchase. But understanding hospital inventory in detail and making purchasing decisions informed by data are longstanding challenges that pre-date the pandemic. The surge in product demand for COVID-19 related supplies exacerbated these problems. Health systems that are using Unique Device Identifiers (UDIs) as part of their COVID response strategy can better understand the items they are purchasing, track them and thus react quickly to disruptions.

In particular, COVID-19 has underscored the importance of unique device identifier adoption (UDI), because UDIs enable hospitals to improve the quality of their product data so they can understand the items they are purchasing, track them and thus react quickly to disruptions.

Hospitals sourcing supplies during this period face four main questions:

  1. What supplies might run out?
  2. Who makes that supply or a substitutable product?
  3. Are they trustworthy?
  4. Are there risks associated with the supply?

Hospitals using UDI are able to answer these questions. The FDA introduced UDIs to improve device tracking and visibility. Manufacturers submit key data attributes on each device they make directly to the FDA’s GUDID. Hospitals can then access the GUDID online, via the FDA’s own API or via a vendor’s API to enable scanning, better inventory tracking, and enrichment of item master data with additional fields.

A hospital using UDI and scanning items during COVID-19 can quickly understand how many surgical face masks, for example, are in inventory and how the usage rate is changing. They can use UDI information to help identify substitute products, particularly if they have data that is connected to device premarket information. FDA Listing Number and Authorization Number are also among the required GUDID fields, so if a surgical mask vendor reaches out, a hospital can use UDIs to confirm that the item is legitimate and the manufacturer trustworthy. And required manufacturer information can further be used to assess risks associated with a product. For example, knowing manufacturing location became critical during COVID-19.

The pandemic has put unprecedented strain on hospital supply chains around the world. UDI is available today to help alleviate the strain. UDI was designed to create the transparency that hospitals need to source medical supplies quickly and confidently. With UDI adoption increasing around the world, from small single hospitals to large health systems, that future is getting closer.

If you are a health system or government agency looking to adopt UDI during the pandemic to strengthen your sourcing efforts, we’re happy to discuss and share our learnings. Please reach out to us here.