Solving the Complexity of Patient Data with Barcodes in Healthcare
While the rapid uptake of electronic health records (EHRs), wearable devices, and collaborative technologies can help streamline treatment planning and delivery, the scope and scale of these same technologies creates a continually evolving, increasingly complex workspace.
According to recent Accenture data, more than half of U.S. healthcare patients now struggle to navigate the system, while the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that expanding EHR use contributes to physician “burnout.” And while completely eliminating complexity isn’t possible due to the value of new technologies outweighing potential drawbacks, providers can improve operations. That starts with barcodes in healthcare.
Tracking Patient Treatment
To ensure patients receive the care they need while in hospital, identification is key. By incorporating patient data into barcode wristbands printed at the time of arrival and then scanned using hand-held devices or mobile phones, caregivers get consistent, real-time access to specific patient protocols, in turn allowing doctors and nurses to make informed decisions about ongoing treatment plans.
GS1, the organization responsible for developing and codifying new barcode standards, notes that “barcodes can be used to identify products and patients as part of every caregiving process. This ensures that the right care is being administered to the right patient.” This removes a critical layer of complexity. Instead of referring to physical checklists or finding a free computer to access EHR records, staff can simply scan for current patient status.
Tracing Pharmaceutical Uptake
In addition to tracking care status with patient barcodes, doctors’ offices and hospitals can also use barcodes to keep tabs on high-value, high-impact pharmaceuticals. As noted by Tech Radar, continuing reliance on handwritten documents “can lead to mistakes stemming from illegible handwriting and fading ink.” If medication dosages or types are incorrectly transcribed — or incorrectly interpreted — the results range from limited treatment efficacy to adverse patient reactions, requiring substantial staff and resource investments to correct.
By using inventory control and distribution systems such as Bar Coded Medication Administration (BCMA), hospitals can ensure the right medication gets to the right patient at the right time without the risk of human error. Scanning patient barcodes can trigger pharmaceutical refills and delivery directly to hospital rooms. Doctors and nurses scan their own ID badge as well as the patient’s and drug’s barcode when administering medication to update the system and prevent over or under-dosing.
Tallying Potential Payments
Barcodes in healthcare can also be used to tackle the challenge of document management. Consider the rapidly-growing healthcare insurance market. From government-regulated plans to private insurance policies and corporate-backed health packages, the sheer number of forms required to determine costs, assess coverage, and collect payment is substantial. Even minor errors by patients or providers can result in significant delays.
Almost half of employees across industries consider current document location and sharing processes “broken.” Barcoding in hospitals offers a solution. Scans help improve accuracy — cutting-edge solutions are accurate 99.9999 percent of the time — while providing a singular, digital collection mechanism for multiple treatment and insurance records attached to the same patient. The use of barcodes also helps eliminate duplicate form completion. By tying barcode scans to advanced document viewing applications, healthcare professionals can quickly see which forms are already on file.
Decoding Care Complexity
Barcodes offer significant advantages for healthcare providers by helping reduce complexity across patient treatments, pharmaceutical tracking, and document management. As noted by recent research, however, challenges remain. Inadequate scanning equipment and poor quality codes often frustrate these forward-thinking efforts. The solution? Provider prioritization. With the right third-party support across devices and software deployments, healthcare organizations can decode complexity and improve patient care.