NEHTA Introduces The National Product Catalogue

The National Product Catalogue is a long-overdue reform for the public health system that will radically improve efficiency, increase quality and safety for patients, and save $200 million.

Australia’s health system relies on having enough of the right medical supplies, equipment and medicines on hand to treat the patients who need them, when they need them.

Until recently, however, government health departments and public hospitals have used dozens of different catalogues for ordering these products. Often they contain inconsistent product information, and purchasers had to use a variety of different systems to make their orders. Under this inefficient supply-chain, unnecessary duplication of effort was common, as were errors in ordering – it was too easy to order the wrong thing simply because a product or medicine was not identified accurately.

The National Product Catalogue is an electronic solution to the supply-chain problem: a single online home for all products, prices and medicines used in the Australian health system.

The health sector has long recognized the need for a single repository as the most effective method for making health-related product purchases. Now, using the National Product Catalogue, public health institutions across Australia can find out everything they need to know about the medicines, medical devices and other healthcare products they use, from the one source.

While the National Product Catalogue represents a major overhaul of existing processes in the health system, electronic procurement systems have been standard in many other industries for years.

Suppliers of products have welcomed the e-procurement solution for doing business with their government clients. No longer will they need to waste time with a different form or process for each government department – the National Product Catalogue creates one standard process for providing details electronically about any product to every health department.

Each product in the catalogue has a unique identifying barcode, much like the ones you see on retail products at the supermarket. The code for each item includes relevant purchasing information such as the size of packs or the component parts of an item. The catalogue will even list non-medical products such as office supplies, so the public health system need only use the one source for making purchases.

Health departments like the new electronic system for several reasons. While the immediate saving of $200 million is valuable for a health system straining to control the costs of its services, improvements in efficiency are not just about money. The National Product Catalogue offers the potential to unlock even greater value in terms of managing risks and improving quality and safety for patients.

By allowing a public hospital to know exactly how much stock they have of any given product, for example, they can locate supplies, replace out of date stock, and avoid ordering too much or too little of any product.

Patient safety is improved because every product’s unique code ensures that the correct product is being purchased. The accuracy of electronic procurement will reduce misidentification of medications and medical products.

And in the rare event of a product recall, the National Product Catalogue provides a reliable single source for knowing the amount of any product and its whereabouts in the health system.

The public health benefits of the National Product Catalogue are clear, which is why the system is now in place across all state health departments.

Using electronic systems to exchange health information (e-health) can make a big difference in how information on medicines and other health products is shared between providers in the healthcare sector.

The National E-Health Transition Authority, a not-for-profit company established by state and federal governments, built the National Product Catalogue as part of its mandate to develop betters ways of electronically collecting and securely exchanging health information. The Authority is now working on a suite of practical tools to help decision-makers analyse the catalogue and better understand public spending on specific products and product categories.

The introduction of the National Product Catalogue to Australia’s public health system, one of several initiatives in the electronic delivery of health services, is a welcome and long-awaited reform of the health supply-chain process. With fewer errors, greater efficiency and significant cost savings complementing real improvements to the quality of healthcare and patient safety, the National Product Catalogue is the gateway to the smoother functioning of a 21st century health system.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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