Anne Snowdon addresses the Economic Club of Canada.Anne Snowdon addresses the Economic Club of Canada on the subject of reducing medical error, Monday.

Improving supply chains in healthcare can save lives: study

Enhanced supply chain processes based on global standards can save lives, says a study released Monday by the World Health Innovation Network.

Adoption of these processes by Canadian hospitals and health organizations will significantly reduce injuries and deaths caused by preventable medical error, according to the report by the network’s academic chair Anne Snowdon, entitled “Visibility: The New Value Proposition for Health Systems.”

Medical error—including medication errors, surgical adverse events, allergic reactions to medications and complications of hospitalization—is the third leading cause of death in North America.

“Health organizations do not have the digital tools and infrastructure required to enable clinicians to offer automated ‘double-checks’ and alerts to proactively manage, prevent and protect patients from harm,” says Dr. Snowdon. “And health system leaders do not have the expertise in supply chain logistics and management that other industry executives have, so this will require support from industry and government to build capacity across health systems.”

The report required two years of research: in-depth interviews with over 50 Canadian experts, a detailed review of hospital and government records, and the inclusion of prior Canadian and international research.

Its 76 pages detail six specific recommendations:

  1. Create provincial policy and regulatory frameworks to require adoption of GS1 global standards in Canada to guide supply chain transformation across healthcare systems.
  2. Invest in infrastructure integrating automated, digital tracking tools and devices in clinical settings to transform healthcare environments.
  3. Establish a national product registry that holds accurate and up-to-date data on all healthcare products.
  4. Build health system supply chain leadership capacity by leveraging the expertise and experience from other sectors.
  5. Design and implement a supply chain visibility scorecard that measures progress towards achieving visibility for healthcare systems.
  6. Develop a national, legislative supply chain framework to align with other global jurisdictions to maintain Canada’s viability as an international market and partner.

The full report is available on the World Health Innovation Network website.