HealthPRO News

March 17, 2022

HealthPRO's Tracy Gallina affirms our commitment to standardized pharmaceutical barcoding at recent CAPDM event

Image of hand holding a pharmaceutical drug with barcode facing up

On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM) hosted a webinar, titled 2D Barcoding: Barriers to Implementation – Stakeholder Perspective Presentations. As the name suggests, the event included presentations from various CAPDM stakeholders, including HealthPRO’s very own Clinical Director of Product Quality, Tracy Gallina.

Interim President & CEO of CAPDM, Angelique Berg began the day’s session, highlighting the purpose of the event: to promote the benefits of 2D barcoding and thus their necessity in Canadian pharmacies as well as the implementation of them.

Regarding implementation, Berg reiterated CAPDM’s Adoption Roadmap for Pharmaceutical Barcoding in Canada.

image of webinar: 2D barcoding teams call screen

The Roadmap

The Adoption Roadmap for Pharmaceutical Barcoding in Canada was created by the GS1 Canada Pharmacy Board over the past few years with individuals from across the nation’s supply chain.

“The roadmap is a culmination of years of work on tracking and traceability,” said Berg. “Rather than this being imposed, this is a marketplace and community shift, driven by needs across the supply chain; patient safety is really what is driving this initiative.”

As Berg described, the roadmap is built in a phased approach and relies on different groups within the supply chain – manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacists – to complete respective adoption benchmarks by specific deadlines.

image of slide show screen: adoption roadmap for pharmaceutical barcoding in Canada

On Needs and Benefits

Tracy Gallina joined the event to echo CAPDM’s and GS1’s position on 2D barcodes, their effectiveness, and their need in healthcare. Specifically, Tracy set out to illustrate the need for barcodes encoded with the GTIN, lot number, and expiry date on the carton as well as unit of use for all products to enhance safe medication use in hospitals.

“In hospitals, barcodes allow healthcare workers to create safe and effective medication management systems through accurate inventory and distribution tracking,” said Tracy. “They also allow hospitals to automatically collect and retrieve data instead of entering it manually, they help prevent diversion of narcotics or controlled substances, and can alert nurses to potential errors before a drug is administered to a patient.”

Many patients in hospital require multiple medications with complicated schedules and routes of administration. Barcodes can help ensure every patient receives the right medication.

image of Tracy presenting slide with award criteria

HealthPRO’s Commitment

HealthPRO is actively advocating for products with barcodes on the unit of use, and we employ our national presence to achieve it.

As Tracy described in her presentation, HealthPRO’s commitment to patient safety through advocating for 2D barcoding is evident in our RFP scoring; approximately one-third of the total contract score is product quality, within which barcoding represents a significant weight.

To illustrate, the below diagram showcases the RFP scoring process as it relates to supplier barcodes:

 Injectable products 

GS1 compliant barcode with GTIN on the primary packaging

= score of zero

 All Other Pharmaceuticals

GS1 compliant barcode on the primary packaging or unit of use

= a significantly lower score 

Moving Forward

In August 2021, CAPDM distributed a survey to its members aimed at understanding their awareness of and preparedness for 2D barcoding implementation. The responses concluded that 100% of responding members to be aware of 2D barcoding and 63% to be already taking action to implement, while only 14% will meet their respective roadmap target.

It’s vitally important that suppliers put correctly encoded barcodes on their products.  We collect barcode data through our RFP process and have seen improvement in the rates of barcoding over the last several years; however, the data from samples received for recent major RFPs shows there is still work to be done.

In January 2022, we asked our members to complete a barcode survey of our own. A total of 122 members across the country completed the survey including two provincial central production centers, two provincial cancer centers, and multiple health authorities.  We also met with members of the Alberta Health Service Connect Care Barcoding Team who provided some insight into their provincial timelines for barcoding. 

The survey showed that 48% of sites stated that they are currently using barcode scanning, an additional 60 more sites are expected to implement barcode scanning this year, another 78 in 2023, and 40 the following year. So, by 2024, 90% of sites included in the survey will be using barcode scanning.

While there is much to do to actualize the Roadmap, HealthPRO believes this is a necessary and achievable task, and we are committed to working alongside our partners, members, and suppliers, to ensure barcodes meet our hospitals' needs.