A significant challenge facing healthcare is determining how to manage the oceans of healthcare data created across the medical device value chain, and specifically during the delivery of care. You may hear about the challenges developing cohesion and a single source of truth between manual paper-based records, electronic health records, and other healthcare information technology, but the challenges don’t end there.

Supply chain data for every device, instrument, or other piece of healthcare equipment must be carefully managed and stored across those assets’ lifecycles. Developing interoperability between all of the systems involved and all of the data points that must be stored has been of intense concern and debate for many years. Consider, also, that the goal shouldn’t be to just store the data, but rather to prepare it for analysis to drive efficiency and innovation throughout the industry to provide higher levels of care for lower costs, and the scope of need increases dramatically.

While this is an ongoing challenge that we will continue to discuss through our blog postings, there are already numerous solutions that have been implemented to deal with this complexity. By way of example, we are all aware that it is difficult to track medical device information through sterile processing and use in the OR to the patient record. As a result some companies are using tags with data matrix codes to trace information, such as the UDI, to the patient record. Other companies are experimenting with using steam-sterilizable RFID tags to trace an implantable device to its final point of use. Perhaps the most widely talked about strategy is to leave the non-sterile model behind and provide implants, and sometimes single-use disposable instruments, as pre-sterile packaged products. Of course, each of these come with their own challenges to both implementation and scale, including added cost of production as well as developing the infrastructure to support them. Many of these solutions require software and/or hardware and capital equipment to interact with and retrieve the necessary data to fully deliver on the value promise.

Many of the solutions being employed to streamline the medical device value chain must be controlled, tracked, and analyzed using new software. Then the use of the new software requires new standards for data quality, healthcare data management, cyber security demands, and the ability to communicate with other systems in the healthcare value chain. Regardless of the technology employed for field location tracking, the lynchpin will be the systems used to manage the data and the degree to which we are able to ensure an interconnected and interoperable ecosystem for storing, analyzing, and sharing that data.