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Labels and Barcodes In Hospital. But Why?

On a recent inpatient stay in the hospital, I remember looking around to see the different ways labels were used to identify things, maybe keep track of things, information about correct equipment use and safety warnings.

The labels on the equipment were mostly durable label materials with a linear barcode and human-readable text which I’m inclined to think is used as a tracking number. Some common uses for this type of label is to track assets and information about each piece. Information such as:

  • an identifier that is linked to that specific piece of equipment.
  • when it was purchased, serviced and if it is under warranty.
  • the location of that equipment, and where has it been.
  • the usage level to determine the correct inventory levels for efficiency.

Other labels had an area for hand-written information such as the date and technician of the last time it was serviced. Even though the blood pressure machine at my bedside failed many times (with some readings that scared even me, no less the nurse who would instantly look at the low number results and then at me to see if I was breathing.) But no one called for service during my stay. Perhaps it is part of the room clean out. So I can’t tell you how they used that information to locate or service that piece of shared equipment.

With so many pieces of medical care equipment and supplies being disposable, I would think it would be to an advantage to know where it goes and be able to bill for it. In this case, they bill by the patient stay, not itemized. Ok – but how do they replenish supplies or inventory. Large shelves outside my room were filled with lots of things. Maybe they have a system. I would think they have to. My nurse was certainly busy with me and other patients leaving no time to waste looking for things. She comes in early to make sure she has a chance to review where things are before she is off taking care of us.

I was especially happy to see all the matching labels on medication, and blood samples. My nurse used a scanner to verify my patient information from my wristband, and the medication. This instantly went to the laptop computer which stayed in my room.

Although the lab technicians relied on looking at my wristband and a verbal verification of my name and DOB, no one from outside my nurse used a scanner to verify or access my patient care information at the point of transaction. But they did use pre-printed labels to put on each blood vial at the point of care.

Scanning barcode information is an efficient and accurate way to verify, track and gain access to important patient care data. As a patient, I see some great uses of label and barcodes. I also see many opportunities to be able to do more with barcoded information and labels.


Want to learn more about labeling, using barcodes, patient wristband and printing and scanning options? Give David Holliday a call 603.598.1553 x237 or contact us here.

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