Implementing GS1 bar coding systems is an important issue that every company within the Healthcare industry needs to understand. Patient Safety is paramount to all health care delivery entities and as healthcare systems and suppliers adopt standards-based trade initiatives the benefits will emerge. Implementing GS1 standards will significantly improve workflow efficiencies, increase cost savings and reduce errors, providing traceability of products as they travel though the material management supply chain.


First, its important to understand how barcodes function. Data Matrix is a two-dimensional bar code printed as a square or rectangular, made up of individual dots or squares. This representation is an ordered grid of dark and light dots bordered by a finder pattern. The finder pattern is used to specify the orientation and structure of the shapes. The data is encoded using a series of dark or light dots based upon a pre-determined size. The minimum size of these dots is known as the X-dimension.


Data Matrix is composed of two separate parts: the finder pattern and the encoded data. Although it is possible to encode any type of data in the general Data Matrix, when using GS1 Data Matrix the data must be structured according to the rules of the GS1 System. Element strings begin with an Application Identifier (AI), followed by data the AI denotes. GS1 Data Matrix is the ISO/IEC recognized and standardized implementation for the use of Data Matrix.


In order for hospitals to improve their materials management systems, they need to barcode everything. In the UK as part of the government’s eProcurement strategy and endorsed in the Carter Review, the department of Health is funding 12 Trusts to demonstrate significant efficiencies in cost savings, reduction of errors and improving patient experiences, by adopting GS1 barcoding standards.


The government expects that implementing electronic procurement systems can deliver efficiency savings of up to £800m per year.  By simplifying supply chains, hospitals can save another estimated £150m per year on oversupplied or perished products.

Late last year, all NHS acute trusts in England were registered as GS1 UK members, as mandated by the department’s strategy.  Meaning every supplier and every trust must adopt the GS1 barcoding standards.


Rapid Healthcare supports the reading and the decoding of GS1 Barcodes. Rapid is currently using Data Matrix based bar coding for the Mother’s Milk mobile app: a milk bottle labeling solution.  Our solutions are in full support of GS1 Barcodes, we are utilizing decoding for Donor Milk tracking, inventory management and more.


While most hospitals are implementing barcode scanning and labeling solutions, many are not using the GS1 barcoding standards to its full potential. With new innovative mobile applications and hardware capable of reading GS1 barcodes, hospital clinicians and technicians across all departments are being empowered to enhance workflow efficiency, realize big savings and can improve the quality of patient care.

By Anton Ansalmar