QR codes for vaccines increase data accuracy

We’ve seen QR codes been used for marketing but on vaccines? That’s what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending, so that errors in data collection reduce. They will also help providers automatically upload the patient’s data to Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

QR codes increase data accuracy

2D barcodes pack in more data than linear barcodes. Right now, linear bar codes only have vaccine product information. But, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) also requires documentation of the vaccine lot number. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests documenting the vaccine’s expiry date.
As of now, this data is entered by hand or typed in the EHR and then the state Immunization Information System (IIS). “I often see transcription errors where eight (8) and “B” or zero (0) and “O” have been mixed up,” says a clinician who took part in CDC’s pilot study on using QR codes on vaccines.

QR codes for vaccines

Study participants were across the country. Image by CDC.

Also, it can be tough to read the lot number and expiry date stamped on some vaccine packages. “The lot number is critical in instances such as a product recall,” says CDC. The Center ran a pilot project on QR codes for vaccines from 2011 that finished this year. It included vaccine manufacturers like GSK, immunizing providers like pediatricians, and EMR vendors.

The pilot found that data accuracy improved significantly with the use of QR codes. Also, “it’s now cheaper to use 2D barcodes than not use them,” says Alan O’Connor, a senior economist at RTI International.

QR codes are time saving and improve safety

vaccine

A baby gets a vaccine. Image by Neale Bryan.

Other benefits include a saving in time, which can add up if entries need to be made by hand. Considering a pediatrician does many vaccines in a day, this figure can be high. Time spent rectifying a wrong handwritten entry is even more, so scanning saves this time too.

Patient safety is also greater, as accurate information in case of product recalls is available with automated updation of EHRs. There is also less chance of duplicate vaccine administration, as the patient’s EHR will show vaccines received. We’ve talked earlier about ways in which QR codes are used to get patient information.

Data collection from QR codes on vaccines is valuable from a research point of view as well. Through regular electronic scanning of information contained in 2D barcodes, we believe that a more accurate and complete picture of U.S. vaccine usage could emerge,” says Dr. Leonard Friedland, VP, Scientific Affairs and Public Policy, GSK Vaccines, North America.

Another study reveals that the net economic benefits of using 2D barcodes on vaccines are forecasted to be $310-$ 334 million, from 2011-2023.

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