Health Service Focus


Operation Barcode: selecting technology to succeed

The benefits of Scan4Safety have been widely reported as extremely encouraging, with over £700,000 of savings already identified by the six demonstrator sites – mostly as a result of asset-tracking applications that improve inventory management and reduce waste. Patrick Robinson, responsible for healthcare solutions at Datalogic, talks about some of the considerations to be made when selecting data capture devices for asset tracking to maximise potential ROI.

It’s easy to underestimate the complexity of barcode scanners, but subtle features in the devices you select can have a big impact on the potential benefits. Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are:

What assets do you want to track? Remember, assets can be anything including medical supplies, surgical equipment or lab samples. It is possible that different assets could have different types of barcodes. Ensuring you have knowledge of what these are early on will help to ensure you select a device with the right decoding capability. 1D or 2D… that is the question. 


Where are you likely to scan assets? Do you want to track from the point of order, point of dispatch, throughout the facility, or will this be limited to specific areas? Answering these questions will steer the decision regarding the communications features required such as barcoding, RFID or wi-fi. 

Who will be using the devices and what information do they need access to? A new wave of Android-powered mobile computers, specifically designed for healthcare and housed in antimicrobial plastics, provide instant access to the data captured on a touchscreen device. These devices may provide more functionality than is needed to carry out a standard stock check, but at point of care have the potential to provide invaluable information.

It’s important to consider that different types of devices might be more suitable for different elements of the asset-tracking process. To deliver the best results it is not necessarily a case of ‘one-size-fits-all’, and it is worth taking the time to map out the inventory management process in full and seek advice to determine the best device selection for each element.


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