Barcoding is simple, but effective

By Mike Miliard
02:10 PM

The question, then, is how best to go about implementing a barcoding system for medication administration – and, of course, which one to implement.

For most of the bigger hospitals with large EHR installations, said Tate, the latter question is probably already answered.

“All of the commercial vendors – Epic, MEDITECH, Cerner, McKesson, Siemens – all those guys who play in the larger spaces, they’ve all got a functional barcoding system,” he said, “and there really wouldn’t be any reason for you to go outside of who your core clinical vendor was. You would just get whatever they had.”

That said, “The area that’s still kind of open is the small hospital space,” said Tate. “There’s a much higher percentage of those that do not have an electronic health record.”

It’s in this space, he said, that barcoding vendors could be of help. Smaller hospitals “have such a hill to climb right now. They’ve got to look at putting in an EMR, they typically don’t have the IT staff. Throw on all these other pieces and that’s where all the volatility is – and that’s where the opportunities are for these third party vendors who do stand-alone barcoding. It will be interesting to watch.”

Barcoding – especially when compared to some of the other advancements in health IT – can seem, well, a bit staid and simple. Boring even. Can a system that’s been around for more than 50 years be the most effective means of medication administration nowadays, especially up against hot technology like RFID?

“We’ve talked to a few providers who’ve tried to do RTLS in place of barcoding,” said Tate, “and they haven’t been able to pull it off, for the most part. I do see that RFID has tremendous potential, but there’s still a lot of bugs. How long before that’s a widespread valid option, I don’t know.”

Barcoding may be simple, he said, but that’s the appeal. “You go from one place to the other, and it’s much the same process, and it’s very effective. I think it’s going to take a real step forward for anything else to really unseat that for the next little while.”

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