How 2D Barcode Scanners Improve Healthcare

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You may not associate 2D Barcode technology with saving lives in the field of medicine, but the truth is barcodes and 2D barcode scanners play an increasingly important role in the healthcare industry and have been responsible for saving thousands of lives.

Barcodes are so essential to the proper delivery of medicine that in 2009 the FDA issued rules that require “machine readable” labels on all medications to ensure each medicine can be properly identified. The 2D barcode, because of its small size and ease-of-use, provides added benefits for medical identification. But this is just one way that 2D barcodes are being used to improve healthcare. Barcode technology is changing the delivery of healthcare for the better – saving lives, saving resources, and saving time.

Barcode technology prevents life threatening errors.

In 2013, the National Patient Safety Goals set “identify patients correctly” as its top priority, and 2D barcode technology is at the forefront of helping achieve this goal. Errors in medicine delivery, the wrong dosage, medicine given at the wrong time, or at times even to the wrong patient can be life threatening. A report by the Institute of Medicine found that between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths occur from medical errors in hospitals and that 7,000 of them are related to medication errors. These medication errors are mistakes that can often be avoided with the use of 2D barcode technology.

The FDA explains the best use of the technology in an example from the Houston VA Medical center. Patients are issued barcoded bracelets on entry and all medications also use barcode technology. Another hospital that has adopted this best practice is Clark Memorial Hospital. Clark Memorial has chosen Wasp Barcode’s Wasp Labeler + 2D Barcode Labeling Software to meet the needs of their environment.  It allows the hospital to create its own 2D barcodes for patients and medications and easily read them when needed.


“The FDA mandated that all vendors of medications must add a barcode…”


Clark Memorial Hospital Pharmacy Systems Administrator Gary Pollock MS, Rn, MT (ASCP), explains why the hospital uses 2D Barcodes instead of older 1D linear barcodes, “The FDA mandated that all vendors of medications must add a barcode, but they didn’t mandate the quality of the barcode. Sometimes a barcode is wrapped around a tiny vial, and the curvature of the vial prevents our scanner from reading the 1D linear barcode. Others are printed on paper that doesn’t carry crisp, readable barcodes or they have reflective foil that makes the code difficult to read. 2D barcodes are physically smaller so we can place them on the small vials, medications and packets.”

Using barcode technology hospitals can help protect their patients and respect the 5 rights of medication administration.

Barcode technology helps save resources.

iStock_000019103131_FullThe use of barcode technology is crucial for the prevention of errors when it comes to medicine delivery and proper patient care but it also helps hospitals save resources. And as we all now, saving resources means saving money. 2D barcode technology is one of the few areas where you get to improve care and save money at the same time.

When a hospital pharmacy implements a “barcode system” the product can pay for itself in about one year. According to an analysis by the National Institutes of Health, the hospital where the study was conducted spent a total of $2.24 million over five years on implementation, but they saw annual savings of $2.20 million and a net benefit of $3.49 million after 5 years.

And it is not just big institutions that see the cost benefit, All About Kids Pediatrics is a smaller practice started in 2007 by two physicians and five nurses. When they started using Wasp’s WWS450H 2D Barcode Scanner they were been able to cut documentation time in half. A process that used to take multiple staff members up to 30 minutes is now easily done in 2-5 minutes.


Related Article:To Err is Human: Reduce Errors with Barcodes

At Clark Memorial Hospital the use of the Wasp Barcode’s Wasp Labeler + 2D Barcode Labeling Software allows nurses to flag unused medications and safely re-label and re-use them saving the hospital money and resources. Pollock explains it best, “The WaspLabeler + 2D Barcode Labeling Software is great. It saves us money and time, but more important, it will have an impact on decreasing medication administration errors and improve patient safety,”

Barcode technology is easy to implement and can even work with iPhones and Androids.

Implementation costs pay for themselves in lives and dollars saved and putting a barcode system in place is actually not that difficult.  Customer support is readily available and now the scanners can even be used with iPhone and Android mobile phones, increasing their accessibility and ease of use.Implementing a sophisticated 2D barcode system will give your patients ease of mind, reduce stress on employees
Healthcare 2D Barcode Scanner – WWS450H from Wasp Barcode

concerned about making mistakes, and save lives and resources.

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter