GS1 Standards in Use in Healthcare

Improving patient safety and supply chain efficiency


The widespread use of GS1 Standards has revolutionized efficiency, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness in a range of industries. Recognizing the impact that industry-wide adoption of a common language can have, GS1 Healthcare US® is committed to helping the industry improve efficiency and quality for lower costs, more streamlined care delivery, and better patient safety using GS1 Standards.

GS1 Standards are like the DNA of items and products moving through the value chain. By uniquely identifying each, it’s possible to link items and products with relevant information.

Here’s an overview of how GS1 Standards play an important role in healthcare:

For identification

GS1 For ID

GS1 Standards begin with GS1 Identification Numbers used to uniquely distinguish all products (trade items), logistics units, locations, assets, and relationships across the supply chain from manufacturer to patient. 

  • Global Location Number (GLN) provides information about the location of a company’s headquarters, as well as locations within a company, such as billing departments, ship-to addresses, and locations
  • Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®) allows suppliers to create unique and standardized identifiers for products/cases. GS1 GTINs and barcodes can also be used for U.S. FDA Unique Device Identification (UDI) requirements.*
  • Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) identifies logistics units, such as cases, cartons, or pallets as they travel through shipping and receiving. The SSCC enables this unit to be tracked individually 

For capturing information

GS1 Data Carriers are capable of holding varying amounts of data to accommodate different needs for different products. The data encoded in GS1 Data Carriers not only uniquely identifies products at every level of packaging, it provides access to product information and visibility of product movement through the supply chain.

Barcodes (Carries a Global Trade Item Number):

*For products that are sold at retail.

And (optional):

Barcodes for a case or pallet:

  • ITF-14 (Carries a GTIN)
  • GS1-128 (Carries a GTIN with extended data or a Serial Shipping Container Code)
  • EPC-enabled RFID (Carries an SGTIN or an SSCC)
bullseye icon

For sharing information

With GS1 Standards as the common language of business, trading partners can seamlessly share information to support data synchronization, as well as the exchange of transactional and physical event data about products moving through the supply chain.

  • Master data: The Global Data Synchronization NetworkTM (GDSN®) enables immediate electronic sharing of standardized, up-to-date product data, including GTINs, brand owner identifiers, weights, and dimensions. The GDSN can also be used to populate the U.S. FDA Global UDI Database (FDA GUDID)
circle with arrows
  • Transactional data: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) enables computer-to-computer exchange of business documents among companies. By using standardized business messages, EDI empowers trading partners to communicate in a common language and conduct electronic commerce more accurately and efficiently
  • Physical event data: The Electronic Product Code Information Service (EPCIS) enables trading partners to capture and share information about the movement and status of goods in the physical world. EPCIS was also selected by the U.S. FDA as a method that can be used to comply with Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) data exchange requirements.**
In this publication, the letters “U.P.C.” are used solely as an abbreviation for the “Universal Product Code”, which is a product identification system. They do not refer to the UPC, which is a federally registered certification mark of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to certify compliance with a Uniform Plumbing Code as authorized by IAPMO.

*For information about the rule, see the U.S. FDA Unique Device Identification System

**For information about the act, see the 2013 Drug Supply Chain Security Act

Disclaimer: GS1 US is the local GS1 Member Organization that supports implementation of the GS1 System in the United States. GS1 US employees are not representatives or agents of the U.S. FDA, and the content herein has not been reviewed, approved, or authorized by the U.S. FDA.

GS1 is a U.S. FDA-Accredited Issuing Agency for UDI, and GS1 Standards are authorized for use in implementing the requirements of the U.S. FDA UDI Rule.