World Standards Day showcased the power of GS1 standards in healthcare

For immediate release Thursday 12 October 2017 – GS1, the global standards organisation, is celebrating World Standards Day by shining a light on the use of standards in healthcare. The healthcare industry’s increasing use of GS1 standards and barcode scanning is leading to profound and positive outcomes for patients and healthcare providers.

GS1 has now documented case studies from North and South America, Europe and Asia in which use of standards has led to safer, more efficient care. The case studies highlight three broad areas where standards make a significant difference: medication administration via bedside scanning; medicine and medical device traceability; and clinical staff workload.

“For patients and caregivers, a scanned barcode has a significant impact,”explains Maria Palazzolo, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer at GS1 Australia. “A simple scan can help to ensure that a patient receives the right medical product at the right time and that caregivers have the benefit of additional certainty in their processes. Scanning GS1 barcodes helps minimise errors due to wrong identification of patient or product, and ensure the correct product is in the hospital when the patient needs it. As we are seeing in case studies from around the world, the use of barcode scanning can contribute to doctors and nurses being able to focus even more on caring for their patients.”

Examples of Standards Leading to Safer, Better Care around the World

Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies alike are seeing the benefits of global standards. The Antonius hospital network in the Netherlands scans GS1 barcodes applied to each single-unit medication package. A single packaged pill is issued by the pharmacy, the barcode is scanned and the medication sent to the appropriate ward.

On the ward, the barcode on the patient’s wristband is scanned just before the medication is administered and the display on the computer screen confirms that the right medication is being administered at the right time to the right patient. At the same time, the medication batch number and expiry date is recorded.

This barcode-based administration registration system has made the administration of medications safer, improving patient safety. This implementation has shown that serious administration errors can be prevented by as much as 50 percent by using barcode verification during medication administration. 

Unique identification and barcoding of medications is extremely important since medication administration error can lead to serious adverse events. Furthermore, globally standardised identification of all medications can also improve the efficiency of recall processes.


“To guarantee patient safety, hospital pharmacists need all single-unit medications clearly identified and barcoded. By scanning these barcodes at the point of administration we can be sure that the right medication is being administered to the right patient at the right time by an authorised caregiver,”said Thomas De Rijdt, the Head of Pharmacy at UZ Leuven, one of Belgium’s leading academic hospitals. “At UZ Leuven we have implemented barcodes for bedside scanning as a deliberate strategy to improve patient safety.  Bedsides scanning brought us barcodes, barcodes brought us opportunities for logistics improvements which continue to be enhanced for further benefit to our patients and our hospital.”


But the use of GS1 barcodes goes broader than the identification of medications. Fukui hospital in Japan applied GS1 standards to enable an integrated sterilisation management system for the identification of 20.000 surgical instruments. When assembling instruments for surgical operations, Fukui hospital staff scan the GS1 barcodes directly marked on the instruments. As a result the hospital reduced the time required to assemble instruments by 2,000 hours per year. Overall surgical operation preparation process time was reduced by 500 hours per year. Today Fukui Hospital has a system recording the specific surgical procedures in which particular surgical instruments were used.

In the UK, Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which serves a population of over 600,000 people recently saw a need to better manage product recalls as well as streamline its theatre processes. By using GS1 standards, Derby now captures complete, accurate information to automate its operations, reducing the need for manual intervention and the associated risk of human error. As a direct result of these changes, Derby’s clinical staff can now spend more time taking care of patients, clinicians are able to use trusted data to collaborate for improvements in practices, and with a faster and more precise recall process, patient safety has increased. In addition, the move to GS1 standards has resulted in a minimum of £300,000 savings per year, just in consumables used in general surgery.

Kevin Downs, Director of Finance and Performance for Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said, “Running a hospital is a considerable challenge and the data we’re able to harness from GS1 standards has significantly contributed to the hospital’s success. Since integrating GS1 standards with our inventory management, product catalogue and financial system we have created efficiencies that saved us £1.2m in the first year. This is just from our rollout in theatre, endoscopy and cardio cath labs, demonstrating the massive potential of implementing GS1 standards in other areas.”

Also in the UK, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which provides health services for more than 1.5 million people and employs approximately 6,500 clinicians and staff, now uses GS1 standards for greater control and visibility of operating theatre inventory levels. This move has resulted in less product waste, reduced costs and dramatically fewer out-of-stock situations. Significantly, more than 7,100 hours each year in clinical staff time has been re-allocated to patient care.

Keith Jones, Clinical Director of Surgery for Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added, “Barcodes are definitely not the preserve of the retail industry. We scan everything that takes place in our theatres and have recorded over 100,000 surgical procedures so far. That’s a major database of clinical information that, for example, I can use to look at clinical variation in surgery to make sure we’re working as efficiently as we can. GS1 standards are also vital for patient safety. For a product recall it used to take 50 hours to trace who had been affected. Using GS1 standards, I now know exactly who has been affected in just 30 minutes and this has vastly improved our response times, ultimately benefiting the patient.”



About GS1 Healthcare - GS1 Healthcare is a global, voluntary user community bringing together all Healthcare supply chain stakeholders, including manufacturers, distributors, Healthcare providers, solution providers, regulatory bodies and industry associations. The mission of GS1 Healthcare is to lead the Healthcare sector to the successful development and implementation of global standards by bringing together experts in Healthcare to enhance patient safety and supply chain efficiencies. GS1 Healthcare members include over 70 leading Healthcare organisations worldwide. For more information about GS1 Healthcare, please visit GS1 website.

About GS1 - GS1 is a neutral, not-for-profit organisation that develops and maintains the most widely used global standards for efficient business communication. We are best known for the barcode, named by the BBC as one of “the 50 things that made the world economy”. GS1 standards improve the efficiency, safety and visibility of supply chains across physical and digital channels in 25 sectors. Our scale and reach – local Member Organisations in 112 countries, 1.5 million user companies and 6 billion transactions every day – help ensure that GS1 standards create a common language that supports systems and processes across the globe. For more information visit GS1 website.

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GS1 Australia

Stav Psonis

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