Medical Labels – Laser & Thermal Labels for Labeling Medical Records – Successful Barcode Scanning

February 5, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Posted in Industry & Manufacturing, Medical Labels | Leave a comment
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In a hospital setting, the correct use of barcodes can streamline data entry, improve patient identification, reduce errors, control inefficiencies, and improve both the patient experience and the hospital’s productivity. Barcodes encode numbers and letters by using a combination of bars and spaces of varying widths that can be read by a special scanner. A computer then uses the scanner read to connect all information associated with the barcode. Barcodes do not actually contain any descriptive data. They are simply reference letters and numbers that the scanner and computer use to read and look up all descriptive and related information.

Barcode Symbologies

Symbology allows a scanner and barcode to “speak” to one another. When a barcode is scanned, it’s the format or symbology that enables the information to be read accurately.

Here are a few of the most common symbologies used in the hospital environment:

Code 39: Developed because some industries needed to encode the alphabet as well as numbers into a barcode. Code 39 is a very common symbology used in non-food industries. For example, this code is used for inventory and tracking purposes in manufacturing. Code 39 produces relatively long barcodes and may not be suitable in situations where label length is a consideration

Code 128: This barcode creates an even wider selection of characters than Code 39 and is often used in the healthcare and shipping industries where label size is an issue. Code 128 is a good alternative to Code 39 because it creates an extremely compact barcode, an important consideration where long strings of data are required. This code is highly recommended for use with patient identification applications like medical labels.

Interleaved 2 of 5: The name Interleaved comes from the fact that data is encoded in both bars and spaces. Each numeric symbol is represented by three black bars and two white spaces, creating a significant space savings. Interleaved 2 of 5 barcodes can be as long as necessary to store the encoded data. For hospital applications, a check digit is suggested to avoid misreads. Recommended for use in patient identification applications and medical records.

Medical Labels Barcode Scanner

Medical Labels Barcode Scanner

Seven Steps to Good Scanning

1. Practice Proper Printer Maintenance

The laser in your barcode scanner is a very precise instrument and will read any specks, gaps or splotches on your barcode as a potential error (no matter how small these defects may seem to the naked eye). Thus, it is important you ensure proper maintenance on your barcode printer.

2. Print a Compact but Well-Proportioned Barcode

Printing a compact and properly-proportioned barcode will actually make your scanner’s job faster and more reliable than trying to print either the smallest or the largest barcode you can in the available space.

3. Leave Enough Quiet Zone

The white space before and after your barcode is called “quiet zone” and is used by your barcode scanner to calibrate and read the barcode properly. The optimal quiet zone is ten times the smallest white space in your barcode, or at least one quarter inch from any other copy.

4. Scan in Dimly Lit Area

Because your barcode scanner is reading the laser light reflected back by the white spaces in your barcode, environments with very bright lights can cause confusion.

5. Scan at an Angle, Not Straight on

Many barcode users make the mistake of scanning a barcode straight on. However, barcode reading is more successful if you scan from a slight angle to the plane of the barcode. You can angle off-center, up/down, or left/ right – at any position but straight down on the barcode.

6. Scan from the Middle Distance

When scanners fail to read the barcode from far away, many users compound the problem by holding the scanner right against the barcode. Handheld scanners work best when placed 6 to 12 inches away from the barcode surface. Simply put, scan at the “sweet spot” of 6 to 12 inches away from the barcode.

7. Service Your Scanner

Finally, it is incredibly important to periodically service your scanner. Barcode scanners are delicate laser instruments that require periodic calibration and servicing to assure proper performance.

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