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Home » Children's Health » Product traceability in Ireland: how barcode technology is improving healthcare

Siobhain Duggan

Director of Innovation and Healthcare, GS1 Ireland

Amanda Creane

Healthcare Manager, GS1 Ireland

Healthcare providers and patients are increasingly benefiting from more easily traceable medical products, thanks to standardised barcode technology.

With millions of patients vaccinated against Covid-19 in Ireland, traceability — from manufacturing batches to point of vaccination — became one of the key tenets of a smooth and successful vaccination campaign. The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), the unique identifier embedded in the barcode was created 50 years ago and has transformed the way industry and supply chains operate around the world. The GTIN is licensed by GS1, a not-for-profit global standards organisation with membership from retail, healthcare and many other sectors.

Product traceability for safer healthcare

“Healthcare providers are now seeing the benefits of Scan4Safety or point-of-care scanning to enhance traceability. Meaning, once you scan the barcode of a product given to a patient, you have complete traceability, explains Siobhain Duggan, Director of Innovation and Healthcare at the organisation.

GS1 Ireland is working to embed a more standardised approach to Scan4Safety with the Health Services Executive. Patient safety and operational and supply chain efficiencies are key hallmarks of the standardised approach.

Once you scan the barcode of a product given
to a patient you have complete traceability.

Visibility across the healthcare system

Amanda Creane, the organisation’s Healthcare Manager says: “The scan of a barcode allows people to exchange data in real time, meaning that there is no wasted time looking over patient lists during product recalls or even when planning for the week ahead.” This is possible when every product, location, staff member and patient has a unique identification number.

This is why hospitals, such as Children’s Health Ireland in Dublin, are using the barcode technology to track their infant feeds. Equally, surgical trays and endoscopes across Ireland are tracked using barcode standards to ensure compliance with best practice and full traceability in the event of a recall.

Enabling quick response for patient safety

“Hospitals need to know what is happening to make informed decisions. If they can monitor activity in real time with Scan4Safety, they can quickly react to any issue,” explains Siobhain Duggan. For instance, clinical staff at Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) were spending a large proportion of their time per week managing inventory. 

This was taking valuable clinical time away from patient care, and they found that they had little visibility into what item was used and with what patient. This posed a significant risk to patient safety. Scan4Safety has now been rolled out to all theatres in TUH, which is both saving significant clinical time and enabling safer care for patients. The clinicians now have the information they need at the touch of a button.

GS1 Ireland offers support to healthcare providers getting started on Scan4Safety. It is the only authorised source for barcode numbers and standards and advises both industry and healthcare providers on the implementation of the standards.

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