BAR CODES IN MEDICINE
Although bar codes are acknowledged world wide as one of the most efficient methods for interfacing information with computer based management systems, their use in the medical community has not grown as rapidly as elsewhere. In hospitals, they are generally used on forms, identification bracelets, charts, medication labels, etc. In the radiology department, bar code labels are used on the envelopes or "jackets" in which X-ray and other radiographic films are stored. Bar code labels are being used to a greater degree in radiology groups for procedure codes, patient information, etc.
WHY BAR CODE RADIOGRAPHIC FILMS ?
Besides the usual advantages of bar codes in any information management system, there are many special benefits to utilizing them in radiology. The current system used to identify films is inefficient and prone to error.
Here is an example of how bar coded films could be used in a way that is not possible today.
Recent cases in the news
media told of catastrophic surgical errors resulting from mislabeled or
mis-read radiological images.
With a bar code as part of the permanent film image, a simple scan of the bar code on the film being viewed and the patients bar coded ID bracelet, even during surgery, can quickly verify that the film is the correct one for the patient undergoing a procedure. In a few seconds the bar code scan could prevent a very serious, if not deadly, mistake. Besides the medical benefit, the potential for malpractice liability created by misread or mislabeled X-rays is greatly reduced.
Although primarily designed
for health care oriented medical films, the same system can be utilized
in other biomedical areas such as forensic pathology in the military and
civilian community, DNA analysis, etc.
The use of bar coded films in commercial radiography where X-rays are used for such things as, aircraft structure testing, art analysis, X-ray crystallography, archeology, X-rays of welds and castings, etc., can greatly improve efficiency. In the non-destructive X-ray testing of materials from micro-miniature electronic devices to mammoth missile components, from ancient mummies to the Statue of Liberty, radiography is a two billion dollar per year business. Here, as with medical applications, the bar code on the film can be scanned into the computer for indexing, cross referencing data, etc. The need to manually key in information read from the image's alphanumeric label is eliminated, greatly reducing a common source of error.
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