by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor
The oft-mentioned primary goal of the program is making it easier to track down recalled devices. "I suspect (hospitals) do a pretty good job (with this), but it comes at the expense of extra labor," Conway said. She said without the ability to capture data in a standardized format in a central system, recall notices can be a hassle. Hospital or clinic staff have to ask: did they buy the product? If they did, did they use it? And if so, where is it now?
But there are other, really non-clinical applications that could also help by taking some of the waste out of the supply chain, according to Conway.
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For instance, UDIs could lead to better stocking practices, by letting materials managers or other supply chain personnel get a better grasp of how much extra and even soon-to-expire inventory they have on their shelves. Conway said that while hard data were lacking she had heard from at least one supplier that they had two years' worth of inventory in the field due to expire in the next 18 months.
"In health care, traditionally, we tend to focus more on what we buy and how much, and at what price, and not as much on what products we're using or how much we're actually consuming," she said.
Then there's billing, which Conway said is rife with errors related to device capture. One of her colleagues, for instance, studied the clinical supply documentation at a large teaching hospital's endovascular operating room. Of the 100 cases examined over a three-month period, all had data capturing errors for charges, with most both over-billing and under-billing at the same time
: 90 percent under-billed and 80 percent over-billed, she said.
"Supply documentation is done with paper logs, with stickers on paper, or even when there's an automated system you have to manually enter the data," she said. "And whenever you manually enter things, if you type like I do, there are problems."
COMING DOWN THE LINE
To reap the benefits, though, health care providers will have to have processes in place to take full advantage of UDIs. With that in mind, Conway has offered these four tips for hospitals and clinics hoping to implement the program once it's working:
: Find out who should be involved in your UDI implementation committees, and who should be aware of what's going on. And it's not just supply chain personnel. Also involved are circulating nurses who currently capture lot and serial numbers on products, IT folks who set up EMRs and handle meaningful use compliance and even doctors and surgeons who, at the end of the day, need to be on board with the changes.
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