Barcodes and barcode scanners are some of the most overlooked technologies in the healthcare field. It is undeniable that in emergency situations, medications, medical tools, and accurate diagnoses are more important than barcode scanners. However, without barcode scanners and the codes they read, these things would either be unavailable, confused, or unusable, even in crises.
Tracking where your inventory and assets are, how much stock there is for each item, and maintaining a system to ensure everything is secure and accounted for – this is the lifeblood of many businesses, healthcare included. Nowadays, hospitals, doctor's offices, and other healthcare providers are increasingly affixing barcodes to their critical inventory and assets, leaving almost zero chance of running out of essential materials during crucial moments: quality inventory management software helps create systems where barcode scanners identify low inventory triggering automatic reordering, what used to be an important manual step automated. Attaching barcodes to items like medications is more than just a legal requirement. It is a simple way to create accountability that all levels of staff must respect. In this day and age, opioids are easily abused, so knowing accurately how much medication you have, where those medications are stored, and where they are expected to be at any given time is crucial. All this information can be obtained by scanning a code.
Since the 2000s, the US Federal Drug Administration has required some individuals to label medications with barcodes to reduce administration errors. Information stored in barcodes typically includes the national drug code (identification number for that drug), which includes the medication, dosage, manufacturer, and expiration date. A study on barcode medication administration in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded, "The use of barcode scanners significantly reduced errors in order transcription and medication administration and potential adverse drug events, even though it did not eliminate such errors. Our data suggest that omnidirectional barcode scanners are important interventions for improving medication safety." After implementing barcodes, overall mortality rates were reduced by 20%. The study also pointed out that a quarter of the errors that may harm patients in a hospital setting are caused by preventable errors. Hence, easy-to-use, antimicrobial, and cordless handheld scanners have become increasingly common in hospital environments.