Decision Support for Healthcare

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INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER – Volume 44 Number 3 
Tool will help providers identify materials, locations, and partners

Industrial engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have released a decision-support tool to help hospitals understand and adopt universal standards for identifying materials, locations and partners within the complex U.S. healthcare system.

The levels, Readiness and Impact Model is a free, user-friendly and down-loadable tool, according to the university’s Center for Innovation in Healthcare Logistics. The spreadsheet, vetted by several large healthcare providers, guide users through plans to adopt emerging global data standards from GS1, a worldwide organization that designs and implements product standards to improve supply chain efficiency.

“Retail and other industries adopted universal standards decades ago with the familiar uniform product barcode on almost every label,” said industrial engineering professor Ron Rardin, director of the center. “But healthcare has not followed suit, and the unfortunate result is a lot of conclusion, waste and risk to patients.”

Some hospitals already have adopted the GS1 standards, which use global trade item numbers or GTINs, and global location numbers, or GLNs. The center’s software helps providers by listing the investments needed to adopt the standards and quantify the benefits expected.

The tool grows out of 2009 research by industrial engineering professors Health Nachtman and Edward Pohl. Their industry survey found that the lack of standards cost stakeholders in terms of supply chain accuracy and efficiency. The study called the U.S. healthcare supply chain immature and expensive with significant barriers to efficiency.

The Levels, Readiness and Impact Model decision-support tool, which will continue to be expanded, documents baseline values for various metrics of current supply chain performance. The system shows how adopting consistent and pervasive standards will increase efficiency and reduce waste, redundancies and risks to patients.

The tool is available for download at