The Glacial Saga of e-Procurement in Health in Australia.

A little background.

“On 8 December 2005 the NEHTA Board, consisting of the heads of all Australian health departments, approved the implementation of a National Product Catalogue on EANnet, hosted by GS1 Australia.” – Source NPC Industry News June 2006.

And now we have this announcement.

Health e-procurement goes live

19 December, 2008. WA Health has implemented the NEHTA e-Procurement solution developed for Australian governments’ health purchasing.

The solution was kicked off with Health Corporate Network (HCN), a shared corporate service providing human resource, finance and supply services to WA Health, and global medical products and services company, Baxter Healthcare.

Robyn Richmond, Manager Strategic Development, HCN said e-procurement was key to improving efficiencies in government health purchasing. “NEHTA’s e-procurement solution provides significant efficiencies in the sector which is also an important step in meeting the e-health requirement for unique product identifiers which impacts safety and quality outcomes in patient care,” she said.

The NEHTA e-procurement solution recommends best practice methods of transacting utilising established standards such as GS1xml messaging. It relies heavily on clean, uniquely identified, product data held in NEHTA’s National Product Catalogue (NPC). The NPC is the primary source of purchasing data for all health departments in Australia and is hosted on GS1 Australia’s GS1net.

NEHTA Chief Executive, Peter Fleming, said that the e-Procurement solution is an example of the kind of collaboration required to make e-health a reality for Australia. “It’s great to see the public and the private sector working together to achieve common goals. The e-Procurement solution will present efficiencies for all involved,” he said.

Baxter Healthcare was one of the first suppliers to populate the NPC and is now the first company to trade electronically with any state or territory using the NEHTA e-Procurement solution.

Ken Nobbs, Program Manager - Medical Products, NEHTA maintains that by using a single procurement solution for health supply purchasing, huge safety and quality improvements and cost efficiencies will be realized across the sector.

“A standardised catalogue like the NPC reduces the chance of introducing erroneous data into these transactions and the errors and costs these cause” he said “This is particularly important in the healthcare supply chain where getting the right products at the right place and time can be critical to ensuring quality patient treatment,” said Mr Nobbs.

Looking ahead HCN is now planning to work closely with other suppliers that have populated the NPC to engage in system to system transacting through the NEHTA e-Procurement solution.

Source of release is here:

Glacial is the word to describe the progress on all this. Some three years after the initial decision – and some 18 months after the National Product Catalogue (NPC) was to populated it does not yet seem to be done.

From a December 2006 FAQ document from NEHTA we have:

“What is the deadline for populating the NPC?

30th June 2007 is the date suppliers are asked to have their product information uploaded to the NPC. Jurisdictions are relying on the data from the NPC to progress to e- Procurement. Some jurisdictions are already accessing and using the NPC data. Others are expected to be using the data within the next few months.”

It is of note that this announcement only covers one vendor and not the full gamut of WA Health purchasing. One can be sure that is a way off yet.

More worrying is that in NSW they are developing what appears to be a parallel state catalogue to the NPC. See here:

I think after three years it might be an idea to conduct a little audit of just how successful the overall Supply Chain initiative is and what might be done to actually get it fully implemented. This sort of work can save a lot of money and time and should be a high priority for completion.

On a related matter the Australian Catalogue of Medicines (ACOM) seems to have gone very quiet lately. It would be interesting to know where it is up to – given it is not longer mentioned in the list of current supply chain documents.

It seems to me we could all do with a 2-3 page review from NEHTA as to where things were actually up to, what problems were being encountered and how they were being addressed.

It is, of course, important to recognise none of this is actually totally easy! The following from the UK shows how more than Australia struggles a little!

NHS procurement systems are 'wasteful and block innovation'

Think tank claims health service could save £2.1bn a year

By Mike Simons, Computerworld UK

Procurement policies in the National Health Service are hindering the uptake of new technology and working practices, according to a new report.

The poor adoption of new technology was “one of the reasons our standards often fall below those of comparable countries", said the report titled All change please from think tank The Policy Exchange.

The study, based on detailed interviews with UK and US health care professionals, takes a swipe at the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS, which is driving through a £12bn computerisation project.

More here:

This said, it is still up to those who are responsible to be really pushing on as we know the savings are there!



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