Canada’s healthcare sector is booming. In fact, between 2001 and 2011 the Canadian pharmaceutical exports sector alone saw 250% growth to become a more than $4 billion dollar industry1. In order to support continued growth and as a member of the global community, Canada needs to ensure that businesses within its borders are using global technology and best practices within their supply chain operations.
Part of adopting global best practices, one supply chain challenge that healthcare organizations around the world have addressed and are currently working to implement, is the exchange and communication of product and item information between buyers and sellers within the supply chain.
In today’s high technology, automation based environment, businesses that lack the adoption of global best practices are at risk of having inaccurate information about the products or brands they use. In the consumer retail market, inaccurate product information can cause brand degradation leading to lost sales. Although the healthcare industry can experience the same brand implications, inaccurate product information can also have fatal consequences. When it comes to managing product information, the Canadian Healthcare industry needs to look at adopting global best practices as a part of its role as a global player – especially when there is so much risk associated with doing otherwise.
GS1’s is the leading global organization for the development of standards to support efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors through their Global Standards Management Process (GSMP)2. The GS1 System Standards have defined the needed technology, symbology and data attributes required to support global best practices. Standards include automatic identification keys such as the Global Location Number (GLN) and Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), bar code symbology such as the UPC code as well as a global data communication standard and a supporting network known as the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).
In order to ensure that local market requirements are included in the global standards, GS1 is an association that has engaged Member Organizations in over 100 countries. In Canada, our representative organization is known as GS1 Canada. However, when reviewing the service portfolio of GS1 Canada in the context of their global peers and despite there being a standardized solution available globally, GS1 Canada has continued to market and promote a local market solution known as ECCnet, which operates outside of the global network.
In the Canadian Healthcare sector, GS1 Canada is continually driving to convince Canadian Healthcare participants, providers and their suppliers, to step outside the GDSN and use their proprietary data repository (ECCnet). This direction is contrary to what the rest of the world is doing by adopting the GS1 GDSN as the single source of quality assured product data.
Given the international nature of the Canadian Healthcare industry, this approach simply doesn’t make sense. There are a number of reasons why, but analyses from different perspectives from cost- justification to patient safety show that logically, a local market ECCnet solution is just not needed, nor is it a strategic choice.
GS1 Canada maintains that ECCnet is GS1 standards compliant. What this means is that ECCnet requires the use of some GS1 System standards and leverages the identification schemes defined by the global standards, specifically GTINs and GLNs, as a part of its service delivery model. What isn’t covered is that service providers on the GDSN, called data pools, are subjected to a rigorous third party certification process and because ECCnet operates outside of the GDSN, they are not subjected to this process.
The real question is: why does GS1 Canada operate ECCnet outside the GDSN and its globally recognized standards certifications? What is further perplexing is that GS1 Canada also operates a GDSN certified data pool solution, however it is not made clear if or how the two solutions offered by GS1 Canada work together.
The answer, unfortunately, is that it doesn’t seem to be an issue of standards or best practices – but an issue of the business and financial model in place at GS1 Canada. Operating ECCnet outside the GDSN network allows GS1 Canada to assess all users value added service fees associated to their use of ECCnet. The business reality is that if GS1 Canada were to abandon their efforts related to the promotion and implementation of ECCnet in favour of their GDSN data pool, they would be forced to also abandon the revenues they generate from operating ECCnet. As a not-for-profit standards organization, revenue (loss or gain) should be of no concern.
What does this mean? As a part of the global network standards, the GDSN defines the basic business model of a GDSN certified data pool. In short, a brand owner entering data into their data pool is charged once for that service and those fees are paid to the data pool they have selected for the services they receive. Their data is then communicated to other data pools which provide the services to their data recipient and these organizations are responsible for paying fees for the services they receive from their selected data pool.
Still Confused? A simple analogy would be the phone system. You are responsible for the charges assessed by your phone company associated with having a phone service and you do not need to be using the same phone company as a caller in order to be connected. However, when you receive a long distance phone call, the long distance charges are borne by the caller. As the call receiver, you still need to pay for a basic telephone service in order to be able to receive the call. However you are not liable to the caller’s phone company for the charges associated with the long distance call, the caller is.
Data pool services in general, while addressing a business requirement, get very technical very quickly. The language used in marketing material for data pool services can be confusing and overwhelming for business users or at the other extreme, over simplified. The reality is that a manufacturer and a data recipient gain similar benefits in different ways from using data synchronization. The direction of the data flow and the nature of the services are major technical points that are easily obfuscated as a part of marketing the services. This generates confusion and is at risk of leading Canadian Healthcare businesses away from the use of global best practices.
Ultimately in order to ensure global success, the Canadian Healthcare industry needs to work alongside its global peers to adopt global best practices for data management. The world has established the GDSN as the foundation for optimal best practices. ECCnet, is a product registry that operates outside of GDSN standards and certification requirements. Instead, ECCnet utilizes separate legal requirements for customer use, and it is not subject to 3rd party audits or certification requirements that are mandated for GDSN compliant solutions. How can any Canadian business gain benefits using a solution that operates outside of global best practices? It can’t. This is why ECCnet will not work, especially for Canadian Healthcare.
1 Industry Canada – Size & Structure of Canadian Pharmaceutical Industry
2 GS1 Data Integrity & Global Standards Management Process