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VRS Update: Past, Present, Future

Posted by Justine Freisleben

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The Verification Router Service (VRS) started off as an idea in 2015. In 2016, it was identified as a preferred option for compliance with the 2019 saleable returns requirement (along with sending data via EPCIS). Since 2017, HDA has been convening industry stakeholders to write business requirements for the VRS, later pulling in solution providers to help with the technical details and then facilitating the group that developed the documentation that exists today.

The name, specifically, the “service” piece, no longer really captures what this idea has become. It is an interoperable network of companies and technologies that enables verification requests and responses through a look-up directory that is either on a blockchain or where a copy is managed by each solution provider. Companies can either build the request and response capabilities themselves or use a solution provider. The following graphic shows the complexity of this network.

VRS Network Graphic

Overall, the VRS Task Force, convened by HDA, has made significant progress in 2018. While behind schedule relative to where the Task Force members initially envisioned they would be, the delays are indicative of the challenge of this undertaking. Work continues as solution providers and companies build out the capabilities necessary to meet the 2019 saleable returns verification requirements.

Progress to Date

To date, many documents were produced in support of the VRS to outline how industry and solution providers can build this system in accordance with the business requirements document the industry initially laid out. These documents are currently being maintained by HDA, but in the future will be managed by a yet-to-be-determined governance body. In addition to the business requirements, the documents include:

Note: This list does not include any solution-provider-specific documentation.

The Testing Phase

Over the past few months, companies have been initiating connections with solution providers, and solution providers have been initiating connections with each other. This continues to be a work in progress. However, with the connections made to date, successful verification requests have been generated by a wholesale distributor, effectively routed through two solution providers via the look-up directory to a manufacturer’s product identifier data repository, and a response was successfully returned. The look-up directory sync also was tested in the peer-to-peer environment. Over the next month, the VRS Task Force members will continue to make these connections and test on a broader basis.

At this time, testing is happening both within the blockchain environment and within the peer-to-peer environment. Note that testing within the blockchain environment is being managed separately by a blockchain solution provider. Over the fall, with the completion of the gateway that will connect blockchain and peer-to-peer environments, end-to-end testing will be possible. The testing group currently is projecting interoperability testing across environments will take place in a December/January time frame.

Future Plans

As a group, the VRS Task Force has agreed that its goals were accomplished. Moving forward, HDA, with the help of KPMG, will finalize the documents that have been put together to date into a suite of materials for industry and solution providers to use.

The task force will monitor progress through interoperability, which is anticipated to take place by January. Following, the group plans to pull together case studies that can be shared on a broad basis, outlining challenges, issues and accomplishments for those who have not participated in the effort. A report will be published, with a target of January 2019.

The Role of HDA within the VRS

As a reminder to all, HDA is providing a forum for supply chain stakeholders to develop the VRS themselves. HDA is not producing a standard or qualifying solution providers. There will be no “HDA standard,” “HDA solution” or “HDA specification.”

The VRS was designed to be open and inclusive so that any company choosing to build the solution itself or solution provider meeting the business requirements document and minimum requirements as decided by industry could participate. It is up to solution providers to demonstrate to industry participants that those requirements are being met. There is no formal certification or qualification of solution providers by HDA.

HDA is sponsoring a testing effort, but there is no requirement to participate in it, or any other part of the VRS. Participation in this effort is voluntary, and companies participating are doing so based on their own interests. Testing efforts ultimately need to take place between trading partners through their own system or through their contracted solution provider.

Compliance is your company’s responsibility, so industry stakeholders should not delay on engaging in discussions with your trading partners or solution providers on your plans for 2019 compliance if your company plans to use the VRS solution.

For documentation, see “Verification Router Service Documents” on the HDA traceability resource page. Questions should be directed to jfreisleben@hda.org or (703) 885-0277.

ABOUT THE HEALTHCARE DISTRIBUTION ALLIANCE

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) represents primary pharmaceutical distributors — the vital link between the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and more than 200,000 pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and others nationwide. Since 1876, HDA has helped members navigate regulations and innovations to get the right medicines to the right patients at the right time, safely and efficiently. The HDA Research Foundation, HDA’s non-profit charitable foundation, serves the healthcare industry by providing research and education focused on priority healthcare supply chain issues.

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