I will stray a bit afield of the immediacy of GS1 labeling in medicine and the healthcare supply chain to talk about what’s possible now and what’s possible for healthcare and barcodes in the future. This was spurred, as many blog entries often are, by reading someone else’s blog.
An old colleague of mine, and a talented, savvy individual who is a nationally recognized expert for being what he calls a medical connectologist, recently published a blog article with an analysis in which he concluded barcodes caused workflow disasters in patient care settings. I believe his analysis was correct, except for one part: the barcode part.
That’s because ‘the barcode’ is a type of category logic error.
As someone with experience with HCIT in patient settings, I, too, once thought that all barcodes were created roughly equal and remarkably inconvenient to scan at the bedside. But they’re not. Just the trivial ones are: the so-called linear barcodes. Combine that with hospital purchasing’s tendency to buy the cheapest to spec barcode readers and, voila, you have designed a guaranteed workflow disaster.
The old-fashioned linear barcodes — its the equal height hashmark image everybody thinks of when they think of the barcode and there are hundreds of different types – have a number of qualities which made them seem desirable for use in a clinical environment: they are proven over years of use in retail and supply chain, most are non-proprietary and don’t require licensing. Plus, hardware for linear barcode readers is cheap – well, for the crummy ones it’s cheap. The good readers (i.e., the ones that scan at a very high accuracy rate almost all the time) can actually be pricey (so those I guess would be used by the doctors?).
What could possibly go wrong? Well, a reasonable length for a linear barcode means it contains very little data and you have to know how to scan them so the whole thing happens at once.
While we at Loftware have hopefully made it very clear that we believe the immediate future is clearly with the GS1 mandate, I think it’s important everyone understand there’s another powerful force at work here: fundamentally different — and remarkably superior – barcodes have been invented in the years since 1970s when the linear barcode was born. Some have already found traction in a few healthcare niches, but there is a monsoon of change coming and that will be caused by these new barcodes.
More in Part 2.