Providing UDI data to Hospitals & GPOs Part 3
A Medical Device Supplier’s Perspective on the Journey (Part 3)
As a company, we didn’t do business with Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs). Our strategy was to have a direct relationship with the customer. However, with UDI data, that changed.
Before long, I was talking to GPOs who were asking for our UDI data, in addition to the commercial product data we published via GDSN – even though we didn’t do business with them! Why would anyone give data to a non-customer? The answer would soon became clear. We were able to reach new customers through these GPOs as well as support some existing customers who were already a member of these GPOs.
After some discussions with the sales VP, we realized that providing data to GPOs could be another competitive advantage, just like the data going directly to existing clients. With this decision, we’ve come full circle.
“After some discussions with the sales VP, we realized that providing data to GPOs could be another competitive advantage, just like the data going directly to existing clients.”
A Formal Complaint About the Non-Matching Data
After releasing our product data to several regulators and thousands of customers, a new problem arose – that of maintaining our product data at the same level of quality. Fortunately, we found a great partnership with Innovit, and data synchronization was easier. But there was still a time lag due to the fact that we released product data for each market group separately. A market group was a collection of data recipients that needed the same data set, usually depending on which products were offered for sale in which countries.
Of course, some of our customers were more technically savvy than others. Some had developed systems to compare the data we provided with previous data and see what had changed. In addition, some of their systems compared the data we submitted with our UDI data registered in the FDA’s GUDID system.
On one occasion, we received a formal complaint that the data we had published to this customer did not match the data submitted to GUDID. Upon investigation, this was caused by the fact that our data was first sent to the FDA and then later to that customer. This issue was resolved as soon as the customer received our most up-to-date information as submitted to the FDA.
From that point on, ensuring the consistency of our product master data was a global priority.
3 Ways to Save the Day
Over time, we introduced three important practices:
- First, we had to meet the deadlines for each regulatory authority. We assumed this from the beginning and so “Make the Date” became our mantra. I used this to keep my small UDI project team focused on the goal without getting distracted by adding more extensive features that would cause delays.
- Second, we recognized it was a huge competitive advantage to extend the publication of UDI data to customers over and above meeting regulatory compliance.
- Third, every data recipient, whether an authority or a customer, would receive up-to-date information as soon as it is available.
As our systems evolved and become more sophisticated, they allowed us to realize that offering more ‘trusted’ data can help increase our competitive advantage simply by leveraging UDI as a platform to engage with customers.
Time for Competitive Advantage 2.0
You’ve probably heard of the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. So we thought: Why not offer our product images along with our UDI data?
Even in the early stages of talking to our customers, they were excited about this idea, especially those who had the ability to load images (Jpeg, gif, png) into their online eCommerce systems. In this way, their customers could see the product and know exactly what they had bought.
Unfortunately, I left the company and went into quasi-retirement as a consultant before we could complete this project. I only mention this to remind you that the world is changing. People, including our customers, expect more every day. Keeping up with this demand for quality master data is the name of the game. Take a look at some of the companies that do this well.
For example, Amazon, Lands’ End, Best Buy, Target and the list goes on. The products offered on these shopping portals not only contains pictures but also specifications, product comparisons, and customer reviews. The medical device industry is also going this route. Many device companies nowadays do the same by providing product information so their customers can get an idea of the product they are buying… including insurance.
Increase Customer Loyalty
Once UDI is used to extend a company’s strategy for improving customer engagement, relationships will continue to flourish. Without this focus, the work put into UDI will quickly degenerate into a pure costs center – retaining regulatory requirements and additional.
Maintaining an ongoing dialogue with customers is also critical to knowing what they want. This gives you the opportunity to help them solve their data-related problems. They are the ones who actively use data to make their daily decisions about buying your product over the others. They can also be great partners when it comes to sharing ideas on how to make data even more valuable.
In summary, developing a comprehensive yet simple UDI data-sharing strategy can significantly reduce anxiety. By ensuring that your strategy is flexible, scalable, and guarantees the quality & integrity of the data. Additionally, you can ensure that making your cleansed product data available to other companies, may add some costs, but increases customer loyalty and retention. This is something that any medical device company can achieve.
Finding the right solution partner is critical. Make sure your chosen partner knows the terrain and fully understands the roadmap for global UDI compliance including electronic data exchange with regulators and customers alike.
Shortly after the FDA published the deadline for submitting UDI product information for Class II devices, I received an email from one of our sales representatives asking for help in submitting UDI data to one of our clients, a healthcare network consisting of several hospitals, medical centers, clinics, and a university health center.
As with most medical device companies, our journey into the world of UDI began with the introduction of new FDA requirements to publish product data with a unique number assigned to the product, such as a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), in the FDA database.