“QR Codes, two-dimensional barcodes, have emerged as a valuable tool for streamlining processes and improving patient care in the healthcare sector.”
Barcoding is an efficient method of item-level tagging and identification of items in various businesses and healthcare is no exception. Barcode labels are either attached to intended items with adhesive or barcodes containing unique product codes are directly printed on the items themselves. For decades, barcodes have been providing an inexpensive, accurate solution in inventory management where employees can quickly scan items with an optical barcode scanner with absolute accuracy, saving precious time and costs. The only problem with traditional barcodes is slow scanning where you have to scan each item individually and sometimes you have to scan the same item repeatedly. Apart from that low data storage has also been an issue since you cannot store detailed information about a product but unique identification for each product.
And that is why we have QR Codes now!
In recent years, the healthcare industry has witnessed a significant shift towards digitalization and automation. QR codes or Quick Response codes have gained prominence in this transformation.
What is a QR Code?
QR Code, short for Quick Response Code, is a two-dimensional barcode image that can store data horizontally and vertically, in the form of text, numbers, images, PDF, Google Forms, etc.
QR Codes are known for quick scanning ability and large data storage capacity (You can write a QR Code with the entire Gettysburg address by Lincoln). These two-dimensional barcodes have emerged as a valuable tool for streamlining processes and improving patient care in hospitals.
Let’s explore the implementation of QR codes in healthcare, focusing on their benefits, challenges, and potential applications in hospital settings.
QR Codes in Healthcare: Why Implement Barcodes in Hospitals
Efficient Patient Identification
QR codes can be used to generate unique patient identification codes, enabling healthcare providers to accurately identify and match patients with their medical records.
QR Coding in hospitals eliminates the risk of misidentification and enhances patient safety.
Hospital administration can integrate QR Codes into medication labels, providing healthcare professionals with immediate access to crucial information such as dosage instructions, potential drug interactions, and expiration dates. This way right medication can be administered to the right patient, minimizing errors and improving patient outcomes.
Thus, a QR code-based barcoding solution if implemented correctly saves lives.
Medical Equipment Tracking
Affix QR codes to medical equipment which allows hospitals to effectively track their location, maintenance history, and usage.
QR Codes in healthcare streamline inventory management reduce equipment loss or theft, and facilitate timely maintenance. This results in cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency in healthcare sectors.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) Integration
QR codes can be utilized to link physical documents, such as lab reports and medical images, to patients' electronic health records.
This digitalization allows healthcare providers to retrieve and review relevant information quickly, leading to faster diagnosis and more informed decision-making.
Patients can also access their health records, safely and even remotely and the need to carry physical reports and other documents is eliminated.
Digital Payments with QR Codes
QR Coding can also be integrated with POS (Point of Sale) where patients or patients’ relatives can make payment for the hospital charges and medicines and lab diagnosis.
In hospital canteen, QR Code allows people to pay quickly ensuring smooth operations.
QR Codes in Healthcare: How to Implement Barcoding in Hospitals
Patient Admission and Registration Process
This is the first and foremost area where QR Codes can be implemented in the healthcare sector. QR codes can expedite the registration process by allowing patients to fill out necessary forms online and generate a unique QR code.
When the patient arrives at the hospital, the QR code can be scanned, automatically populating the patient's information in the system.
Medication Administration and QR Codes
Another important area where barcoding is fruitful is medication. QR codes on medication labels can be scanned by healthcare providers to access information about the drug, including dosage instructions, potential side effects, and allergy warnings.
Detailed information ensures accurate medication administration and reduces the risk of medication errors, either by hospital staff or the patient itself.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Testing and QR Codes
Automation in labs and diagnostic testing is of utmost importance to reduce the mix-up of reports and samples. QR codes can be used to link lab test samples with relevant patient information, ensuring accurate sample tracking and preventing mix-ups.
QR codes can facilitate the retrieval of test results, enabling healthcare providers to make timely treatment decisions.
Challenges and Limitations while Implementing Barcoding Technology in Healthcare
Implementing QR codes in hospitals necessitates the availability of compatible devices, such as smartphones or 2D barcode scanners. A robust network infrastructure is also required to ensure seamless data transfer.
Now, upgrading existing systems can be time-consuming and costly for hospitals but given the prevalence of smartphones and the availability of low-cost smartphones and tablets that can scan QR Codes, the infrastructure set up would not be that costly.
Standardization and Interoperability
Establishing industry-wide standards for QR code usage in healthcare is crucial to ensure interoperability between different healthcare providers and systems. 2D barcodes are easy to scan and the standardization aspect is limited, so that is not a limitation. You can easily share a QR Code with patients which can be scanned anywhere using a smartphone.
Privacy and Security Concerns
As QR codes store sensitive patient information, ensuring data privacy and security is of utmost importance. Hospitals must implement robust data protection measures, including encryption and access controls, to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.
QR codes can be used to direct patients to an OTP-based web portal where their private data is stored rather than saving the data directly with the QR Codes, which is not advisable.
To conclude, QR codes have the potential to revolutionize healthcare by streamlining processes, improving patient safety, and enhancing operational efficiency in hospitals. While challenges such as infrastructure requirements and standardization need to be addressed, the benefits of implementing QR codes in healthcare far outweigh the limitations.
With the prevalence of smartphones and low infrastructure costs, QR codes are likely to become an integral part of healthcare systems, paving the way for a more efficient and patient-centric approach to healthcare delivery.
- Last updated on Sep 12, 2023