GPOs: We're 'ready' for GLN adoption

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 14, 2010
Several of the biggest group purchasing organizations serving thousands of hospitals in the United States have declared their "readiness" to adopt a location numbering system touted to help better track products throughout the supply chain.

The board of directors of the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association, a trade association representing 16 GPOs, said Thursday it's unanimously agreed to a Declaration of Readiness to adopt GS1 Global Location Numbers, a system for identifying the locations of all health care providers in the United States.

Among the endorsing GPOs are Amerient Inc., Novation LLC, Premier healthcare alliance and MedAssets.

"Right now, there is no reliable system in place to know where essential health care providers are located. The adoption of GLNs by GPOs is the first step toward better ensuring that the right products are delivered to the right location," said HIGPA president Curtis Rooney, in prepared remarks.

In essence, GLNs are 13-digit numbers used to find locations and supply chain partners and can be associated with physical locations, departments in organizations and even legal entities. They're used in about 23 other industries, according to Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management, which endorses the standard.

"Health care is part of a global business community, so a separate standard for just health care isn't warranted," AHRMM said in a June press release.

'Sunrise' coming soon

The GPOs' announcement comes only a couple of months ahead of the so-called "sunrise" date of Dec. 31 for GLN adoption promoted by participating organizations. At that point, groups involved with the standard will ask that custom account or location numbers be replaced with GLNs.

And GLN is just one of three GS1 standards expected to gradually phase in over the next few years in health care. The other standards are the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), essentially product identifiers, and the Global Data Synchronization Network.

The GTIN "sunrise" is scheduled for the end of 2012.

Over the past year, many major GPOs have thrown their weight behind the standards, saying they'll follow the GS1 timelines.

But GS1 is not the only group in the location identifier act. A rival standard, the Health Industry Number, is promoted by the Health Industry Business Communications Council. The two groups are engaged in a "multi-year fight over the dominance of their standards within the U.S. health care supply chain," said Dirk Rodgers, a supply chain consultant, in a March article on his website RxTrace.