2-D bar codes help docs manage vaccines via EHRs

Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas and athenahealth, a Watertown, Mass., electronic health records vendor, have demonstrated that a new 2-D bar coding system for vaccines can be used to help physician practices and the parents of pediatric patients manage vaccination data.

Besides athenahealth, Microsoft and drug manufacturers Sanofi Pasteur and Merck also collaborated on the pilot with Cook Children's, which includes a hospital and a group of 300 physicians. Clinicians administering shots to children use the bar codes to scan information about the vaccines into the cloud-based athenahealth EHR. Parents can use mobile devices to read the bar codes and upload them to personal health records on Microsoft HealthVault.

The Food and Drug Administration recently permitted drug companies to use 2-D bar codes on vaccines. These bar codes include more information than conventional bar codes.

According to a joint press release from athenahealth and Cook Children's, the main advantages of using 2-D bar coding with an EHR include:

  • Better managing a practice's vaccine supply, thus lowering their costs
  • Confirming that the vaccine about to be given is for the right child, in the right dose, and at the right time
  • Sending notice of the vaccine dose to the state's vaccine registry automatically
  • Creating a reorder to replace the administered vaccine.

"Cook Children's is pleased to help achieve this groundbreaking milestone in the care of children," said Jason Terk, M.D., a pediatrician with the Cook Children's Physician Network. "This new barcode system not only allows us to enhance our level of care, but also sets the standard for the entire nation. As health care providers, it's important for us not to follow, but to take the lead, in using technology. We will be able, like never before, to meet the parents' needs in an efficient manner and in a way that fits their lifestyle." 

To learn more:
- read the press release
- see the InformationWeek Healthcare article 

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