Barcode Technology in the Healthcare System


Barcode Technology in the Healthcare System

Barcodes have been used in the healthcare system for many years, helping trace products and information across large organisations. As we reported in 2017 with the introduction of the Scan4safety initiative, NHS trusts across the UK and other healthcare providers around the world are benefitting from the modern uses of barcodes, and their ability to track performance, treatment and safety of products and people alike.

Barcode Technology in the Healthcare System

Here’s an overview of how barcode technology is used in the healthcare industry.


Patient Safety

Since 2013, NHS patient wristbands have included a GS1 barcode. The primary function of these is to ensure patient safety, by holding information such as patient identity, allergies, interaction with medical staff, and medical records.

Like in other industries such as car manufacturing where parts are tracked throughout the supply chain, the wristband barcode allows a complete story to be told, from the first medical consultation to the final patient discharge.

By being able to track these important details of a patient’s history without needing direct interaction from the patient, there is a vast reduction in the time used to gain such information, a secure way to store the information, and therefore a reduction in the likelihood of incorrect treatment or advice being given to patients. It also cuts costs, as it helps to save time and resources compared with traditional record-keeping processes.


Specimen Identification

In processes like blood tests where the patient and the patient’s sample are separated, it is obviously important that the right sample is correlated to the right patient. Barcodes on the patient and their sample mean they are formally linked to each other, no matter what the geographical distance is between them. This eradicates the chances of incorrect testing being done on the sample, and the chance of patients being given the wrong information and results.

Barcodes on specimens helps the business side of running a healthcare organisation, as well as the human side. By barcoding sample equipment, lab storage facilities and transport can be better organised, administrative errors are reduced, and better auditing systems can be put in place.


Product Performance

Barcodes on products within the healthcare sector have many applications, both at the point of use and later down the line. A product in a healthcare business could be anything, from a metal rod implant used in reconstructive surgery, to a device such as a pacemaker, or a piece of equipment like crutches, face masks or surgical gloves.

By barcoding these items, their quality can be tracked and, over time, this will draw a good conclusion on the performance of the items. If faults are identified with a certain product, having them barcoded and the barcodes recorded in the patient files, means the right people can be contacted for replacements, for example. In much the same way as the food industry, product recalls can happen quickly and easily thanks to barcode tracking.


Asset Management

Finally, we may all remember the ‘crutch amnesty’ widely reported last year as part of the NHS war against waste. By barcoding assets, such as crutches, walking frames and wheelchairs, which sometimes are only required for a short amount of time, these assets can be tracked for timely return, recycling or reuse, like scanning a book out of a library.

In a time where the amount of waste generated by businesses is under intense scrutiny, using barcode technology within the healthcare system will undoubtedly continue to increase. By having a quick, reliable way of tracking people and products through the system, barcodes are saving time and money in our healthcare services.

While many may not like the idea of being coded like a commercial asset when undergoing medical treatment, in recent years, barcode technology has also been used to catalogue the DNA of millions of animal species, so their uses are merging with the human and natural worlds ever increasingly.

If you want to find out how barcodes can help your healthcare business, contact Tanto Labels today or check out our frequently asked questions.

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