Traceability in healthcare

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With thousands of people representing more than a hundred activities relating to patient care and several hundreds beds and places, the University Hospitals are the biggest players in terms of public health in the regions of France. In such complex logistics environments traceability and keeping track of items in discrete production processes such as the production of meals, sterilisation of instruments, samples for analysis, waste handling and laundry transport loops can be a challenge – one that could benefit from the application of identification technology.

At the University Hospital in Dijon, research has been carried out with partners Savoye and Medinorma, on a well-controlled circuit: instruments going back and forth between operating theatres and central sterilisation – a pilot that has been underway since 2005.

A similar project involving truck transportation circuits of clean and dirty linen moving between the central laundry and multiple sites is also underway in partnership with logistics services company Geodis.

A significant benefit of the traceability pilots is the recognition of logistic operations within healthcare establishments. This awareness opens the way to make logistics services more professional, a necessary and valued service carried out on a discrete basis by devoted staff.

Recording the departure or arrival time of a container considerably reduces disputes. We have observed a decrease of two-thirds in the number of complaints regarding lateness or items going astray. Clearer control of assets ensures that containers, say, are not used for other purposes. Also, the project enabled better integration of information and the management of transport orders and dispatch advices.

The main costs relate to data acquisition equipment and developing or purchasing processing software – the number of collection points, or people to be equipped, directly impacts the investment. Obviously, equipping a person or a vehicle with a mobile reader is better than equipping all the reading points with fixed readers. Furthermore, if Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is chosen rather than traditional barcodes, RFID tags and their readers are still much more expensive than using barcodes. They also require more readings and controls to transform the data read by an antenna into useable information.

GS1 standards have developed a dispatch advice (DESADV) to notify the addressee and to allow him to prepare for his delivery and to collect the traceability data of the products sent. In the same way, the transport note allows the carrier to prepare the shipment and to collect the traceability data from the objects to be transported, ie the containers. Success depends heavily on addressing operational detail.

These traceability pilots have allowed our hospital to validate the relevance of the GS1 standards for the security of our transported We have observed a decrease of two-thirds in the number of complaints on lateness or items going astraygoods and the effective creation of the traceability link which may be missing between two production processes.

Adopting global standards is reassuring in terms of the perennial character of the solutions deployed and a significant help in controlling the product flow and the associated traceability.

The French National Committee of the Directors-General of the University Hospitals (la Conférence Nationale des Directeurs Généraux de CHU) has chosen the GS1 System of Standards to be implemented throughout their supply chains. In fact, the validation of the relevance of GS1 standards in our hospital has also led us to envisage an extension to all related activities in our hospital.

François Bisch is director logistics, CHU de Dijon and president, hospital logistics committee ASLOG


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