Come See Commport at HSCN 2018!

Each year the Healthcare Supply Chain Network (HSCN) hosts the annual HSCN conference, the preeminent event for healthcare supply chain professionals and leaders with the goal of advancing healthcare supply chain excellence. This year’s conference is being held May 14-16 2018 at the Delta Hotels Toronto Airport & Conference Centre.

In Canada, there remains a significant opportunity for improvement within healthcare supply chain management to deliver cost control, efficiency, automation and positive patient outcomes through the use of technologies that are heavily relied on in private sector markets such as retail.

These opportunities have been spelled out in reports such as the McKinsey Report, Strength in Unity: The promise of Global Standards in Healthcare and the Advancing Healthcare in Ontario: Optimizing the healthcare Supply Chain – A New Model from the Healthcare Sector Supply Chain Strategy Expert Panel, which provide a detailed roadmap for the adoption of Global Standards including the use of supply chain management technologies and identification marks and symbols within internal processes.  Commport’s suite of services including EDI processing, GDSN data synchronization and cloud based business intelligence and analytics provide the foundation on which these promises can be fulfilled.

Alongside Commport’s work with our customers to deliver on these promises, Commport is excited to attend and exhibit at HSCN2018. The sessions this year include topics such as Value Based Procurement, the role that Data can play to help identify and address supply chain problems, and global case studies that focus on driving value and innovation across the continuum of care.

Healthcare Supply Chain Network 2018

Additionally, this year, Commport’s customer BCCSS is being awarded with the HCN Supply Chain Organization of the Year award. The award will be presented to BCCSS as a part of the HSCN conference.

For more information about HSCN2018 please visit the Conference Website.

Drop by and visit Commport at Booth # 2

Updates from the GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago #5

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference in Chicago, continued…

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference Day 5: There is a large and growing industry globally in the manufacturing and distribution of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs. In addition, countries and healthcare organizations need to be able to track and trace each drug and dose within their domains to ensure the patent receives the proper drug and dose and that the actual drug being administered is not past it’s expiry date AND was not subject to a drug recall. To accomplish this type of tracking there are a number of GS1 Global bar code standards that can be used to track the GTIN, expiration date, lot/batch number and serialization which assigns a unique number to each dose. Brazil has adopted these GS1 Global bar code standards and uses what is known as a DataMatrix or 2D bar code (which is square but not the same as a QR code used on consumer packaging). Brazil has a central government registry that tracks all clinical pharmaceuticals to ensure the drugs being administered are not counterfeit and to facilitate proper tracking and tracing for the accurate administration of each dose. Ms. Bianca Zimon Giacomini Ribeiro, Deputy Chief Adviser for International Affairs, National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (Anvisa), Brazil, presented an overview of how their administration tracks these drugs to ensure proper application and to ensure the drugs are not counterfeit.

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference Day 4 Updates

Click on the link to view her presentation:

Updates from the GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago #4

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference in Chicago, continued…

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference in Chicago Day 4: Tuesday afternoon the focus changed to Cost Savings through Standards with 3 separate healthcare groups showcasing what they have done to reduce costs within their systems and how their technology and savings initiatives have generated very acceptable ROI on the investments they made. The first presentation was from Dr. Justin Bitter, Business Manager, Bernhoven Hospital, the Netherlands, another European view into healthcare best practices and the last two groups were from the US showcasing what can be done here in North America as presented by Cynthia Shumway, Director, Supply Chain Business Applications, Intermountain Healthcare, US and Matthew Mentel, Executive Director, Integrated Performance Solutions and Betty Jo Rocchio, VP, Perioperative Services from Mercy Health Network, US. Again, real-life examples of what is being done around the globe using GS1 Global standards and industry best practices.

Some of the Highlights of presentation,

Implementing(GS1) Global Traceability Standards for Healthcare solve:

•No visibility of goods availability

•Strongly dependency on employee knowledge

•High inventory costs

•Excessive loss (yearly expired sterile stock up to$ 150.000,-)

•Higher error probability

•Inadequate monitoring capabilities

•No full scale

•Search and cannot find

•Elimination of non-value adding activities

•Out of stock situations

Implementing(GS1) Global Traceability Standards for Healthcare yield benefits:

•Amplifying balance sheet of the hospital

•Track and trace supports current assets control

•Reduction of stock levels (25%)

•Reduction of expired products(80%)

•Lowering high indirect costs of staff

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference Day 3 Updates

Click on the link to view her presentation:

Updates from the GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago #3

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference Chicago Day 3: There were 2 very compelling presentations from Wilfried Winzer, Director, University Hospital, Dresden, Germany and Kevin Downs, Director Finance and Keith Jones, Clinical Director of Surgery, from Derby Teaching Hospital, NHS, UK, that showcased leading-edge applications of GS1 Global standards, the usage of the GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) to obtain clean synchronized brand owner product data and the use of advanced supply chain practices which together gave 2 similar, but unique real world pictures, of what healthcare can look like from supplier to use in hospitals and from patient admission to discharge. All these technologies exist today, many have for years now, and for Canada to improve our global healthcare ranking we need to follow their lead.


Some of the key highlights of the presentation:


Clear identification of medical products is a complex challenge for doctors and logistics

Medical products are more and more specialized on smaller therapeutic fields due to new, innovative developments

Example: STENTS

2006: 148 different stents were bought from 15 suppliers

2017: 749 different stents are bought from 31 suppliers

University hospital and industry


Logistical efforts for optimal patient care with innovative medical products increased over the last years and will continue increasing

Counteractive measures

Reduction of efforts by using modern, electronically supported processes in procurement, distribution, storage, use, and documentation of medical products

Goals of EU Medical Device Regulation (MDR)

Transparency and reasonable access to information by using basic-UDI-DI/UDI-DI/UDI in:

  1. Product marking (direct marking)
  2. Technical documentation
  3. Certificate and declaration of conformity
  4. Brief report on security and clinical performance
  5. Implant identification document and patient information
  6. Downstream market reports (vigilance reports, PMCF, PSUR, Trend reports)
  7. Field Safety Corrective Action (Recall, Withdrawal, Advisory)
  8. Certificate of Free Sale


GS1 Global Healthcare Conference Day 4 Updates

Click on the link to view her presentation:

Updates from the GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago #2

GS1 Global Healthcare Conference – Chicago

Why UK is Ranked #1 - Quality of Care for Cost of Service

GS1 Conference Chicago Day 2 Updates: Canada is ranked #9 globally out of 11 in an overall ranking of health care systems in the Commonwealth Fund developed nations 2014 ranking. However, this ranking isn’t due to lack of spending, we are ranked #7 out of 11 on healthcare expenditures per capita – in the middle of the pack. Part of our lower overall rating relates to “Quality Care” as we scored low in the categories of Safe Care, Coordinated Care, and Patient-Centered Care.  No surprise to any Canadian, we also scored at the very bottom of the list for Timeliness of Care.

The UK, which scored at the top of the list, is actively working to make further improvements.  A major presentation on day 1 in Chicago centered on quality care and patient safety using barcoding with track and traceability systems which are used in the UK, Australia, Germany, and other countries. Four UK Healthcare Trusts (small regional groups) presented very interesting presentations on supply chain wins and how they track every patient and everything that they receive from entry to exit by using GS1 Global bar codes and standards.

Representatives from 4 UK Trusts presented detailed case studies on how they are each utilizing GS1 Global standards to improve patient care and efficiency.

  • Keith Jones, Clinical Director of Surgery, Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK identified the key benefits of using GS1 Global standards.  These included error-free trading, better stock management, faster processing and payments, improving patient safety through preventing counterfeit medicines, recall processes, and improving clinical productivity to allow for more time caring for patients.
  • Lorna Wilkinson, the Director of Nursing at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, UK, gave a nurse's perspective highlighting how product tracking is improving patient safety while reducing the time nurses and hospital staff need to spend on managing expiry dates, product recalls, and re-ordering stock.
  • Iain Davidson, Chief Pharmacist & CCIO at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, UK provided insight into how barcodes and GTINs are helping reduce medication-related harm by reducing administration errors by 23% after only 1 year and 66% after 5 years.

To see the full presentation follow this link:

Commport Communications International, inc. Supports Expert Panel Recommendations for Ontario’s Healthcare Sector Supply Chain

Commport support expert panel recommendations:

AURORA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 16, 2017) - As a leading provider of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and as the only certified Canadian Global Data Synchronization Network data pool, Commport Communications International, inc. ("Commport") was pleased today with the recommendations of the government-appointed Expert Panel in their review of Ontario's Healthcare Sector Supply Chain. Commport support expert panel recommendations.

"We commend Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for recognizing the need for modernization in the provincial healthcare sector supply chain," said Dave Ralph, founder, and CEO of Commport. "We had the privilege of sharing our views with the panel, and look forward to working with the ministry on implementation."

The Strength in Unity report released by McKinsey in 2012 called for faster adoption of both digital technology and global standards for supply chain automation and inventory management in healthcare. The report went on to highlight that the retail sector is currently 30 years ahead of healthcare, and that the lack of supply chain efficiency and automation is having a negative effect on government budgets and public health.

"Our EDI technology could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the provincial health budget overnight and without any direct costs to the public system," said Dave. "In addition, our GDSN data pool service leverages global standards in product content and supply chain management and would update Ontario's procurement systems daily with clean data."

Commport is a growing Ontario-based company and a key contributor to the province's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) cluster. Commport was started in 1985 by Dave Ralph and currently supports over 50 direct jobs in Aurora. Today the company is partnered with 75 Ontario hospitals, other sub-national North American governments, crown corporations, large and small retailers and thousands of their suppliers.

Ready to find out more?

Drop us a line today for a free quote!

10th Annual Healthcare Supply Chain Conference 2017

10th annual healthcare national supply chain’s conference and exhibition The Leading Edge of New Horizons, is designed for senior management, executives, decision makers and professionals integral to improving supply chain efficiencies.

The 10th annual healthcare conference runs from May 15-17 and offers excellent opportunities for healthcare supply chain professionals and caters specifically to the Canadian market. Commport is very excited to be a sponsor and part of the annual conference.

Come by and visit us at Booth #12

Commport has over 30 years of history in the North American EDI & GDSN industry and since the launch of CommCARE Health Solutions we have been powering our way through the Canadian Healthcare marketplace.

The HSCN conference is the “must attend” event within the healthcare supply chain community and is an excellent way to hear about and discuss current issues and leading practice innovation within the industry while networking with colleagues across the country and connection with your suppliers at our exhibition.

Hospital and health systems are in a unique position to streamline supply chain operations within the evolving value-based health care system priorities for quality patient care, enhanced patient outcomes and cost saving solutions. Opportunities to re-evaluate and drive innovative operation models will require collaboration to drive the next level of supply chain savings.

For more information on The Healthcare Supply Chain Network Annual Conference 

2017 MEDEC MedTech Conference – Unleashing Innovation

The 2017 MEDEC MedTech Conference is MEDEC’s annual signature conference for the medtech industry. This year the event is held from Wednesday, April 5 to Thursday April 6 at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel & Conference Centre.

Commport is this years lanyard sponsor and exhibitor. See you there!

To register or sponsor the annual conference visit MEDEC’s website here

2017 MEDEC not-to-be-missed annual conference for the medical technology and healthcare industry. Attendees will hear from and engage with high-profile health system leaders and network with colleagues. This year’s conference will once again play host to dignitaries and influential thought leaders from across various facets of healthcare and government.

The conference outline is currently under development with confirmed speakers, including:

Who should attend?

  • General Managers, Presidents, CEOs and Vice Presidents
  • Marketing Directors / Associates and Product Managers
  • Business Development Directors / Associates
  • Government Relations Directors / Associates
  • Regulatory Affairs Associates of all Levels
  • QA Managers / Associates
  • Legal Counsel
  • Healthcare System Leaders
  • Health Technology Assessment Agencies

Medtech Canada is the national association representing the medical technology industry in Canada. Our association advocates for achieving patient access to leading edge, innovative technology solutions that provide valuable outcomes. Our members are committed to providing safe and innovative medical technologies that enhance the quality of patient care, improve patient access to health care, and help enable the sustainability of our health care system. The medical technology industry in Canada employs over 35,000 Canadians in approximately 1,500 facilities across the country.

What The Heck Is Supply Chain Transformation

Supply chain transformation has been the buzz phrase in the Healthcare world for some time now, but what the heck is it?  The answer to this depends on who you are talking to.

Supply Chain TransformationThe traditional supply chain involved the movement of goods from supplier to demander, so from manufacturer to retailer, or manufacturer to distributor, or distributor to retailer and so on.  These physical supply chain activities are governed by the whole procure-to-pay transactions sets, paper or electronic, of purchase order, invoice and final payment. Certain experts in Healthcare have proposed to extend this supply chain definition to include the patient as the final demander and so the supply chain extends to the hospital room and patients Electronic Health Record (EHR/EMR).

This theoretical extension to the patient and patient record has taken the attention of many, when in fact the traditional supply chain in healthcare today for the most part lies stuck in the 1980’s.  This needs to be fixed before the extension can be addressed.  In Canada less than 30% of purchase orders are delivered electronically resulting in needless paper processing that is adding billions of dollars to healthcare costs.  These costs are hidden in the back office and result in increased product costs from manufacturers.

In the modern retail world 100% of issued purchase orders are delivered electronically and thus invoicing is returned in the same format.  Then an auto-match-pay process eliminates all the paper processing saving that industry many 10’s of billions of dollars annually.

In fact, Gartner estimates the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked digital adoption by five years. While the healthcare industry has made great progress in automating supply chain processes, COVID-19 illustrated that large gaps in procure-to-pay automation remain. Moving forward, the healthcare industry must bring even greater levels of automation to the procure-to-pay cycle. One area of focus for both providers and suppliers will be to speed the adoption of electronic invoicing and payments. This will reduce the costs associated with manual processes and enable more fluid decision-making around cash management

A recent survey by EY found that improved supply chain visibility is the number one business priority during the next three years. To achieve this, healthcare must fix its data issues. The first step is to establish a modern data strategy that integrates and normalizes data across multiple stakeholders and ensures it is clean, accurate and can flow easily across systems

Gartner forecasts the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market will reach $44 billion by 2022, with much of that growth driven by the adoption of cloud-based systems. In healthcare, moving to a cloud-based ERP system enables real-time integration with other cloud-based systems, such as electronic health records and accounts payable. By linking the supply chain with financial and clinical systems, organizations can better assess how supply choices influence total cost of care, revenue and reimbursement, safety, quality and the patient experience. However, cloud-based ERP systems are only as valuable as the data that power them. In developing a cloud ERP strategy, healthcare organizations must find a technology partner with healthcare and supply chain expertise to ensure that the supply chain data powering the ERP system will provide the insight necessary to improve patient outcomes and lower the cost of care.

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Ready to find out more about Commport Supply Chain Solutions?

Drop us a line today for a free quote!

A Commentary on the World Health Innovation Network’s paper:

Visibility: The New Value Proposition for Health Systems.

(Dr. Anne Snowdon, Odette School of Business, University of Windsor, October 2016)

World Health Innovation Network’s Paper Commentary:

It was with great anticipation that we read the above noted World Health Innovation Network’s paper when it was released by Dr. Snowdon, having heard so much about its forecasted impact on Canadian Healthcare.

However, the excitement was short lived upon finding the World Health Innovation Network’s paper report to be strangely reminiscent of an earlier paper produced by McKinsey & Company in 2012 titled Strength in unity: The Promise of Global Standards in Healthcare, October 2012. The McKinsey report has been accepted by global healthcare organizations as containing actionable intelligence and strategic direction and many of the recommendations presented are being actively implemented.

Following fairly closely to the same report concepts and presentation path as the McKinsey report, the World Health Innovation Network’s paper relies fairly heavily upon older data and reports while seeming to ignore the globally accepted conclusions of its predecessor.  The one thing that Dr. Snowden’s World Health Innovation Network’s paper report does accomplish is to drive home the need for change under the mantra that if one repeats something often enough and loud enough people will eventually listen.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that from a technology adoption perspective, the Canadian Healthcare Supply Chain is both specifically and generally “stuck in the 80’s” when measured against the current landscape in the retail world, despite the industry’s attempts to modernize.

In the late 80’s and early nineties and under the guidance of SNS Inc. of Mississauga, various executives of both hospitals and vendors developed a working group that they called Carenet. The preliminary Carenet mandate was to develop and encourage the use of Electronic Data Interchange for the purchase order to invoice cycle, eliminating paper and reducing costs. The Carenet group worked closely with the Canadian EDI Standards body and Marshal Spence, it’s President at that time, to develop a subset of the X12 EDI document standards which became EDI standards specifically for the Canadian healthcare industry.  The Canadian standards body was originally known as the EDI Council of Canada, subsequently the Electronic Commerce Council of Canada Network (ECCC) and finally evolving into GS1 Canada.  The underlying principle was that if all parties used the same template, community enablement and adoption would be faster and less costly for all parties involved.

These transaction subsets are still in use today, having been updated to take into account the evolution of GS1 Global traceability standards that support the use of GS1 system keys such as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and the Global Location Number (GLN).

As an EDI services provider having taken over the EDI processing that was at one point operated by SNS Inc., Commport links Hospitals, Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) and Shared Services Organizations (SSO’s, which contrary to the paper’s reference on page 22, they are not “single sign-ons”) with over 1,000 vendors using these transaction standards.

Commport processes transactions that interface directly with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that almost 100% of Canada’s hospitals and GPO/SSOs have implemented. These ERP systems support the organizational planning needs in terms of inventory and resource planning as well as the creation of purchase orders and the receipt of invoices in electronic format.

Unfortunately, many of the ERP systems in use by Canadian Healthcare Providers have not been updated and as a result in many cases, cannot inherently handle the latest GS1 Standards including the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and Global Location Number (GLN). As the manufacturers (Vendors) moved to meet these standards, which many have, the Healthcare Providers technology base has not been able to handle them. Upgrading or replacing ERP systems is an expensive, time consuming task, but one that is slowly happening in many centers.  These improvements are all well underway throughout the Canadian Healthcare System.

However, the reason for the WHIN paper is surely not to encourage the replacement of the ERP systems in hospitals, but one much grander.  On page 52 the WHIN paper states the following:

“Ultimately, our goal in this paper is to reframe the challenge of patient safety into a system infrastructure opportunity that creates clinical environments to support the delivery of the safest care possible. Supply chain transformation is the future for accountable healthcare systems that demonstrate the return on investment in delivering healthcare that is safe and highly effective in performance and quality.”

The stated goal is not only admiral and needed, but seems to be a little late to the game. It joins in the collective desires as presented to Commport by professionals that Commport interacts with regularly, not only in Canada but also on a global basis.

We note that on page 1 second paragraph in the Introduction section of the paper the following statement:

“The purpose of this paper is to propose a new strategy for addressing the seemingly intractable challenge of patient safety and the growing rates of death and injury associated with adverse events in healthcare systems.”

The prospect of a “new strategy” creates a high level of interest for all involved in Canadian and global Healthcare.  However, “new” suggests innovation and that the strategy has not been put forth before.

In their 2012 report, McKinsey sets forth a strategy for Healthcare that is not only extremely similar to the one eventually put forth in the WHIN paper but one that has in fact, already been recognized and adopted by global Healthcare.  It is seen as the framework upon which Healthcare supply chains, from manufacturer, to provider, to patient are being restructured. The McKinsey report details how adopting the GS1 standards of GTIN, GLN and the use of the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) can improve patient safety significantly, reduce costs and improve efficiency throughout the entire supply chain.

Since the McKinsey report was released in 2012, this author would need to assert that the stated purpose of the WHIN report to propose a new strategy has failed. Many of the concepts presented are already being implemented and thus there is little to no innovation put forth within the report.

We evaluated the stated goals of the WHIN paper. What we are looking for are recommended solutions, proposals, and or presentations that move the strategy of Global GS1 standards use to create visibility, traceability and improve patient outcomes from where it has been, to where it becomes a “reframed opportunity”.

Both the McKinsey and WHIN papers suggest that Healthcare can learn from other industries. McKinsey has chosen retailers as its point-to whereas WHIN has chosen the airline industry as its point-to.  However, WHIN’s examples clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding of how these technologies are used within that industry.

As a part of their point-to example, the WHIN paper has chosen to use the ‘boarding pass’ as an example of Track & Trace technology. However, it would appear that the researchers spent little or no time talking to airline industry experts about boarding passes, their use, their underlying technology or the benefits they provide to the industry.

The paper initially introduces the use of a boarding pass as follows:

“In the airline industry, every passenger of every flight carries a boarding pass with a barcode that identifies the passenger and the flight. This ensures that travelers board the correct flight, sit in the correct seat and arrive at their destination safely. When airline staff scan the passenger’s boarding pass, they are immediately informed by visual monitors whether the passenger is boarding the correct flight at the designated gate.” (page 6)

For the most part this definition of use is correct. The boarding pass gives the passenger permission to board the listed flight and to occupy a seat on the aircraft. Passengers receive their “permission” by having paid for the ticket and by having successfully met the local security requirements. The boarding pass is scanned at the gate to confirm the passenger has permission and is imminently about to board and therefore their luggage if any can remain on-board. For security reasons airlines are supposed to ensure that all luggage on board an aircraft belongs to a passenger on the flight.

Confirming the actual seat is up to the passenger or other passenger(s) who find them in the incorrect seat. It is notable that a number of airlines do not assign seats whatsoever in which case there is no way that the boarding pass could provide the insight stated by the WHIN paper.

Interestingly later in the WHIN report, the power of the boarding pass seems to have grown in such a way that it seems to meet the needs of the author rather than to present an accurate picture of how its technology is used:

“In the airline industry, every passenger is tracked and traced from the time they check in to the time they take their assigned seat on an aircraft and disembark from the airport. Such automated supply chain infrastructure and use of tracking tools are key characteristics that are readily translatable to clinical environments in health systems” (page 19)

Using today’s technology, the airline industry encourages passengers to check in and to print their boarding pass from home.  Certainly as an industry, there is no benefit to tracking a passenger’s movements from their home to the airport.  Everyone who has ever flown knows that once a boarding pass is issued, either at home or at the airport, passengers are free to move throughout the airport with no one or no device tracking them. The boarding pass allows the passenger to access the security screening area and ultimately to board the aircraft. However, between security clearance and the gate, no one knows where the Passenger is until he/she attempts to board the plane.  There is definitely no check beyond a visual inspection by the flight crew that the passenger has left the aircraft. There is absolutely no track and trace evidence that they have left the airport.

The point for raising these examples is two-fold. The first is that in order for the healthcare industry to take the report seriously and undertake the expensive changes prescribed therein, every aspect of the report and every statement made therein must ring true. In this case they do not, and it doesn’t take an expert to know this.

The second point is that the current Healthcare world can look at these two statements and say, “hey we do that now. We use technology to record receipt of that pharmaceutical or device, and we also have our ‘boarding pass’ when we sign the shipment receipt. We also track our patients by the use of ID bracelets. However, the gap is that in healthcare we do not track which patient took the drug or received a device nor do we effectively track who administered it.  The ID bracelet does not track patient movements throughout the entire hospital, just as the airline has no idea where a passenger is once they have received a boarding pass.”

A much better example from the airline industry is readily available. Delta Airlines recently announced a large traceability investment wherein they have spent $50 million to implement RFID baggage tracking. This is an effort to eliminate the 1% – 2% of the 150 million total bags handled that go astray.  This is the most innovative use of traceability technologies within the airline industry.

Choosing a bad example may not lessen the value of the paper so long as the recommendations presented hold water.

Thus we look to the “Solutions” presented in the WHIN Paper which we have paraphrased below:

  1. Create a National and International framework to share patient and product related data…..

It is our understanding the Canada Health Infoway is well underway to deliver this solution on a national basis. According to its website, Canada Health Infoway is stated as follows:

A major step toward the development of Canada’s health infostructure occurred with the establishment of Canada Health Infoway Inc. (Infoway) in 2001. Its mandate is to accelerate and coordinate the development and adoption of modern systems of health information and communication technologies (including electronic health record (EHR) initiatives) in Canada and define and promote standards governing shared data to ensure compatibility of health information networks.  (Underline added for clarity only)

So the proposed ‘new’ solution is actually already in existence and is being implemented across Canada. There are a certainly a number of challenges that will need to be addressed as these strategies and solutions are put into place, however the framework and foundation are already well underway.

  1. Invest in Infrastructure

The costs to retrofit hospitals with the newer technologies is a major hurdle to overcome. Canadian and global healthcare are redeveloping facilities; all are adopting the technologies suggested in both this paper and the McKinsey report.  One only need look to Ontario hospitals like the new Mackenzie Health Centre, in Vaughan, or Humber River Hospital to see how technology is being used to enhance patient safety and improve efficiencies.

So this proposed pre-determined solution also seems to be moving forward as the opportunities arise.

  1. Suggesting a National Product Registry

This appears to be a major pillar in the WHIN proposed solution. However, this pillar raises many issues from both the Provider and the manufacturer/vendor perspective.  Below we quote the section of the WHIN paper that gives rise to these issues:

“A digital registry of health products, accessible to all health system stakeholders who use it, offers access to accurate and up-to-date data on all healthcare products.”

Here again the retail world is at least a decade ahead of Healthcare in addressing the issue of current, accurate and timely product data in a standardized format. With the globalization of manufacturing and commerce and the proliferation of new products, retailers large and small realized that managing this data directly themselves was far too resource intensive. It has caused errors at the Point-of-Sale (POS), impacted scanning technology and slowed down the introduction of new products. These retailers realized that collectively they were spending many tens of billions of dollars in their supply chains to address this issue.

Nothing inspires a change like recognizing such a huge negative effect on the bottom-line.  Retailers set about developing and introducing a solution to this problem, a solution that has become known as the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).  This network of services providers, called data pools, has been shown to be the system infrastructure opportunity (to paraphrase the WHIN paper) needed to effect supply chain transformation.

The GDSN is a network of 34 securely interconnected and interoperable data pools around the world. These data pools manage over 22 million unique products and product groupings on behalf of 34,000 global manufacturers.  The benefit to the manufacturer is that they only to have enter their product data into one point, their data pool of choice. The GDSN standards and infrastructure will ensure that the authorized recipients are kept updated and accurate, in a constantly cleansed fashion, within hours of a change being posted by the manufacturer.  Although pioneered by the retail sector, through the GS1 Industry Engagement initiative, the GDSN fully supports the needs for the healthcare industry. To date there are over 2 million specific Healthcare products available in the network.

The GDSN is a truly global, standards based digital registry that has been developed with the input of industry, one that more than meets the need as stated in the WHIN report as per the above quote.  As a part of developing a global solution, any regional and national attributes for every country, including Canada, are handled extremely well. GS1 has a methodology in place to integrate any new or upcoming requirements into the standards, as they come to light.  Duplicating this registry by building national registries of any kind only adds unnecessary costs and could result in product data becoming out of sync with the manufacturers global catalogue held within the GDSN. It definitely means that any manufacturer selling into Canada would have to monitor and interface with 2 registries (or more if country specific registries gain traction), again adding costs to the overall supply chain while offering no benefit to the patient.

A national product registry could be linked to the Canada Health Infoway mandate to improve the health of Canadians by working with partners to accelerate the development, adoption and effective use of digital health solutions across Canada.”

As we reviewed earlier, the Canada Health Infoway mandate is to encourage the use of technology to provide ‘visibility’ into the medical details of all Canadians in order to have the information available where and when it is needed for further Patient Care and review.  The paper fails to detail exactly how a ‘national registry’ would help advance the Infoway mandate nor how it would accelerate the development, adoption and effective use of digital health solutions across Canada”.

The parties active in the GDSN especially the data pool operators, such as Commport, would find the details on how a centralized repository could improve patient safety very helpful since the GDSN is an existing global registry with millions of products whose data is already available to Canada Health Infoway.

“A national registry also makes it possible to implement post-market product surveillance to ensure that only the safest, high performing products are used in healthcare to achieve health and wellness outcomes for patients.”

Again, there are no details on how, but it would appear that the proposed pre-determined solution is more than just a registry. It has the appearance of some kind of product ranking and scorecarding application that would have to rely upon Provider input.  We suggest that this would not gain support from many manufacturers as they must be able to derive a business benefit from any solution introduced.  As a result, a registry with this purpose would most likely fail even if came with ‘no cost’ to the brand owners.

“A national registry eliminates the burden for health professionals or staff of having to key in product information and data manually, thus also reducing the administrative burden downstream when product data is inaccurate.”

At this point the paper is referring to the traditional work needed to enter and maintain the Master Item file (catalogue) in their ERP system(s).  The reality is that the users of the GDSN do not manually handle any data. In 2016, the GDSN will have handled over 100 million product data records being delivered to ERP systems globally. What Canadian Healthcare does not need is a new, duplicate system that will involve costs to build. It must compete with a global standard that has already been proven to work 100 million times per year.

“A national digital registry offers the added value of supporting cost-effective and accurate e-commerce supply chain processes to ensure that products are available and distributed to clinical settings when and where they are needed.”

We assume that the “cost-effective and accurate e-commerce supply chain processes” are those involved in the ‘Procure-to-Pay’ commercial activity including all the individual logistical steps along the way. The standard for these processes is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) a topic Commport is extremely familiar with. But how a national product registry would offer any benefit in this process is a mystery. The first step in the Procure-to-Pay process is the creation and release of the purchase order which uses the Item Master file in the ERP system, which we addressed above.

Unfortunate as it may be, it is obvious to anyone operating in the Canadian Healthcare industry that the authors have a very close, cordial relationship with Canada’s GS1 Member Organization (MO), GS1 Canada.  For many years GS1 Canada has worked very hard to protect their existing ECCNet product registry which they inappropriately call “Canada’s Product Registry”. We see in this paper almost verbatim, the statements GS1 Canada uses to market their ECCnet service, which does work in conjunction with the GDSN. Instead, however, ECCNet imposes additional fees for participation as its scope is considered to be outside of the global network.

It is the opinion of this writer that the author(s) have failed to add anything new or reframed the healthcare supply chain in any new way that had not been tried or that were not presented in the McKinsey paper of 2012. The suggested pre-determined solutions presented failed to explain how the solutions would deliver the benefits that are put forth with them.  We believe that for the most part would be duplications of existing solutions already implemented not only in Canadian Healthcare centres, but also globally.

As a supporter and promoter of the global GS1 standards we would always assert that without a doubt, there can be no harm in repeating what has already been said if only to refresh the ideas in everyone’s mind.  However, it is our opinion that this paper would have more weight and credibility if it had made reference to or at least acknowledged the work of McKinsey and their report. It would be even more valuable to Canadian healthcare if the concepts outlined in 2012 by McKinsey were updated and built upon as a part of delivering on a new value proposition for Canadian Health systems.

About Commport Communications International, inc. is an e-commerce service provider to a large portion of the Canadian Healthcare marketplace providing electronic supply chain services to both Providers and Vendors in Healthcare across Canada.  Included in these services is the ‘core’ supply chain activity of transactional electronic data exchange (EDI) as well as complete Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN Product Identification) services.

With over 30 years of experience in the retail/commercial marketplace assisting retailers and distributors to interact in an electronic way within their supply chains with their many hundreds of thousands of vendors around the world, Commport brings this wealth of knowledge and understanding into the healthcare marketplace from actual experience not theory.

As one of the oldest certified GDSN data pools in the world, Commport is well versed in and very experienced in the full set of GS1 Global standards which extend well beyond the use of GTIN’s, GLNs, and GSRNs, and works daily with both manufacturers and Healthcare Providers to encourage and assist in adoption of these standards. Part of these services include assisting manufacturers to understand and comply with legislative requirements such as the FDS UDI requirements in the US.

As a “virtual partner” with one of the largest provider of EMR software and services in Canada, Commport also understand the needs for and the benefits of visibility and continuity of information across the complete spectrum of healthcare services at the patient level.

Working and interacting with over 1,000 healthcare industry entities, both domestic and international, on a daily basis Commport is uniquely situated to comment on the above noted paper from the World Heath Innovation Network (WHIN).

The commentary that follows herein is based upon our 30 years of retail experience and our daily interaction face-to-face with those involved in the Canadian Healthcare marketplace.

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