Bringing the back office to the front lines of health care

By Gordon Oates, National Procurement’s Technology Enhancement Programme Manager (NHS National Services Scotland)

Data is fast becoming the world’s most valuable commodity. Over recent years, the insight and knowledge extracted from data has opened up new opportunities for people, businesses and governments. It’s helped drive more precise consumer targeting, improved efficiencies, and has even enabled more effective day to day functions and processes. In the same way that retailers have done for years, procurement within NHSScotland is taking bar-coding and scanning technology into the clinical environment.

In a current pilot programme, National Procurement, part of NHS National Services Scotland, is now using the data embedded in barcodes to record product IDs, batch/lot numbers and expiration dates to bring full traceability to the product journey, manage stock better and reduce risk of wastage from out-of-date stock. From a logistics point of view, this is very effective and simply good practice.

Used well, data can be a virtual bridge linking the ‘back office/stock room’ in real time to the reality of the front lines of health care, and aligns with the principles of Realistic Medicine through supporting risk planning and potentially reducing harm and waste. National Procurement’s recent data-driven pilot with the Interventional Radiology department of Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) provides a great example of that. In short, it’s showcased the game-changing potential of data.

The Stock Management pilot

Starting in February 2018 the GS1/Stock Management pilot went further than tracing the individual product from manufacturer to delivery point. It tracked every single product, to a single procedure, performed by a single lead clinician, on a single patient. This was and is full end-to-end traceability and in doing this, it’s unleashed multiple benefits.

Benefits for patients and clinicians

The enhanced product data has clear benefits:

During the pilot, efficiencies of the scanning process released significant clinical time back to patient care. Health Care Support Workers at QEUH reported saving up to 13 hours per week on administration, and the Site Superintendent Radiographer estimated that over the course of a month, around two days of their time was released.

The successes of the QEUH pilot are now being echoed in two more pilots currently underway in the Radiology Department of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and in the Orthopaedic Theatre Suite of the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Clydebank. Discussions are now taking place on how this project can evolve further in NHSS. Watch this space.