With the NHS set to receive close to half a billion to fund innovative technology in hospitals to make it safer for patients, and allow clinicians to spend more time on the frontline, secretary for health and social care, Matt Hancock, earlier this year stressed the importance of government healthcare initiatives to encourage this; Scan4Safety, GS1 and e-procurements are key ones.
Scan4Safety, deemed a world first in healthcare, is expected to generate efficiency savings across the NHS of more than £1 billion over seven years. It’s about bringing improvements across the entire supply chain by adopting global standards, GS1 and PEPPOL, to drive efficiencies. GS1 data structure standards are used across industries, and in the NHS will improve information available by tracking and tracing products from one end of the supply chain to the other, from manufacturing to the patient-level, and eventually product choice to patient outcome.
Here, Dr Damien Marmion, CEO at Ingenica Solutions, which works on the inventory management element of the Scan4Safety project with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, discusses why technology can be a powerful solution in the fight to improve patient safety.
Tell me about Ingenica Solutions
We are a fast-growing company that has the majority market share. As the first GS1 certified solution for inventory management, we partner with growing numbers of NHS trusts across the UK, including early pathfinder customers such as Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospital, and Barts Health NHS Trust, and demonstrator sites such as Royal Cornwall NHS Trust, to more recent customers such as University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust. We also have many more customers realising benefits and sharing their knowledge across the NHS with other trusts.
Ingenica Solutions’ 360 IM, is an award-winning solution and provides these trusts with a 360 degree view of supply chain cost drivers; tracking and tracing products across the trust estate and wider. As we expand Ingenica 360’s capabilities, we will also be able to track people and equipment to further improve efficiencies. It is this type of technology that is instrumental in reshaping the entire NHS back office releasing clinical time to patient care.
What difference is this technology making day-to-day for healthcare professionals?
Technology contributes to better patient safety across the NHS, and in this case is being used to track medical supplies, such as high value implants, from point of manufacture to point of care with patients. This may seem basic, as this process already exists in other industries, but for the NHS it is a significant evolution as the environment is so much more complex in healthcare. The need to be able to track and trace products to patient was highlighted by issues such as the breast implant scare and other highly publicised events, when the NHS faced overwhelming pressure to trace where and who had affected implants. There are product recalls to be managed on a daily basis, and being able to identify where products are and who they were used on, at the touch of a button, is something that is now achievable.
Our technology brings positive change, information, and benefits to individuals across the NHS, from senior leaders, clinical managers, and supply chain teams to frontline clinicians; making a difference to the roles and responsibilities of the whole workforce.
Taking clinicians as an example, instead of spending hours ordering and replenishing stock, they can now use mobile devices to scan barcodes and link products to the patient, in real-time. This adjusts product levels in the inventory management solution by automatically (and accurately) recording the transactional activity, ultimately saving clinicians a great deal of time on admin duties, meaning more time spent on patient care, as well as reducing the amount of wastage.
Data capture relies on structured data for technology to be utilised, and standardisation of barcoding and associated labelling allows the prompt collection of data to IT systems for analysis. It means being able to associate items to a patient, case, surgical team or procedure, providing real knowledge of the specific costs of individual patients and also valuable information in the event of a product recall. Ensuring products expiry information is collected, aids the clinicians in preventing out-of-date products being used on patients, whilst also managing significant wastage out of the organisation.
Where is the progress being made?
There are many examples of trusts that demonstrate how the innovative use of technology improves value financially as well as value to the patients; trusts that are achieving 100% traceability on implants, substantial cost savings, and the release of clinical time from administration duties.
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust is a good example. The GS1 demonstrator site has awarded Ingenica Solutions a contract for the inventory management element of the Department of Health’s Scan4Safety project.
Here the Trust aims to utilise the full range of available data capture solutions, including our mobility solution and RFID technology to really increase the efficiency of existing materials management processes, saving clinical time, and to also be the first to see how RFID can be used to improve patient safety in line with the Scan4Safety objectives.
The project is unique in its planned integration with RFID technology and shows how best of breed data capture and technology can work in healthcare to best advantage.
The Trust also plans to track high value surgical implants received, stored and used during surgery. As well as reducing the clinical time spent tracking these high value implants, and wastage as a result of expired stock, it improves patient safety by ensuring the right products are used on the right patients, and that those products can be traced in the event of a recall.
Trusts that have adopted this new way of working are seeing significant savings. It’s important to remember that GS1 data standards are applied to products, patient and location to ensure that products can be pinpointed in the supply chain.
The main inhibitor to adoption with be funding for the trusts, and the rate that suppliers can affect the labelling changes required. The main aim is to also achieve electronic trading using EDI.
What are the key challenges and pressures?
Barcoding and RFID technologies are much more ingrained in the retail and manufacturing environment, with healthcare just starting out.
The adoption of GS1 data standards on suppliers packaging is a key inhibitor. Barcoding has not yet fully been addressed and few products have RFID tags as they are not currently cost-effective on lower value products. These are not cheap changes for suppliers. Education across all sectors of the NHS and the supplier base is another challenge.
Some trusts still have no reliable electronic inventory management system, relying on clinical and supply chains team local knowledge to manually create orders; an option that simply cannot support the demands and requirements of hospitals in today’s healthcare environment. The challenges for these trusts are clear; lack of data, lack of visibility and transparency across the supply chain, the cost of over and understocking, and wastage. All of which create inefficiencies and have a huge impact on budgets, which we all know are under massive pressure.
Furthermore, the way that the NHS is funded and budgeted means that investment in new ways or working and technology can be hard to achieve.
What are the next steps?
There is still considerable progress to be achieved across the NHS, with some trusts yet to make significant progress on the GS1, e-procurement and Scan4Safety programmes. The growing number of examples in the public domain which highlight the enormous saving achieved clearly illustrate that it is in a trust’s interest to do so.
Early adopters and demonstrator sites are ahead of the game and leading the change across the country; these results are replicable elsewhere. The next steps are for trusts to draw on existing best practice, to learn from the early adopters and demonstrator sites, and make themselves part of the tech transformation, improving quality and saving costs.