New Barcode Workflows for Nurses

Guest post by Doug Brown, vertical marketing manager, Honeywell Scanning & Mobility.

Doug Brown
Doug Brown

A creative group of nurses are helping uncover better ways to use barcode printers and scanners at the bedside. In the past, it was common to see barcode scanners mounted on workstation-on-wheel (WoW) carts behind the display and out of the way. It made perfect sense at a time when reading barcodes was a new and relatively uncommon task. Today, the frequency of reading barcodes at the bedside has dramatically increased and as the industry continues to adopt meaningful use Stage 2 this trend will continue.

Nurses using cordless barcode scanners quickly discovered that mounting it in an elevated, forward-facing orientation allowed them to fully benefit from the scanner’s “presentation mode” feature. Just like built-in scanners found at the grocery store, presentation mode scanning is faster because it eliminates the need to squeeze the trigger, and frees up the second hand for quickly handling items.

Thanks to high performance imaging technology, nurses can now use scanners that are suited specifically for hospital applications and are able to quickly read the toughest barcodes, such as clear IV bags or micro medication barcodes. Gone are the days of aligning that little red line so that it precisely dissects the barcode; today’s latest scanning technology brings a “squeeze-and-beep” solution to nurses fingertips.

Hospital workers have learned that selecting a cordless scanner can dramatically improve workflows at the bedside, as evidenced by the fact that more that 70 percent of hospitals purchasing  scanners recently have chosen the cordless options. The most significant advantage is the freedom of movement followed by the elimination of “cord snagging and tangling,” which can be critically important in an environment where you have patient IV lines and other monitoring equipment in the vicinity.

More than just performance, a lot of design work goes into creating a barcode scanner for healthcare environments. By going cordless, the scanner cable that notoriously drags on the floor, is eliminated from the cleaning routine. The time saved in cleaning alone has been justification enough for most hospitals to switch to cordless scanners.

All of these features have aided nursing workflows, but perhaps the most dramatic improvement has come in the form a new concept for scanner mounting. Working in concert with customers, it was discovered that mounting a cordless scanner above the display helped nurses stay more focused on their EHR system screen.

During medication administration activities, nurses are required to frequently check the WoW display for any errors detected by the software. By mounting the scanner above the display, it allows nurses to scan the medication via presentation mode and keep their eyes clearly focused on the screen for any special notifications.

A secondary benefit of this over-monitor mounting position was soon discovered. The best healthcare-ready scanners currently on the market have white illumination areas, which serve as perfect on-demand desktop lamps— termed a scanlamp—allowing nurses to work at night without disturbing resting patients. Nurses have reported they no longer needed to turn on the room lights, unnecessarily disturbing patients or their family members sleeping in the room. Not to mention that these lights can double as a flashlight when held in the hand.

Today, many hospitals are mounting their specimen label printers on their WoW carts at the bedside. Phlebotomist and nurses alike prefer having printers already in the room, eliminating the need to find and carry printers along with their other specimen collection supplies. Providing printers on the WoW carts greatly reduces wireless connection issues and completely eliminates having to charge the printer’s batteries.

Barcode scanning and printer in hospitals is maturing rapidly and new best practices are emerging every day. There are strong trends for replacing aging corded barcode scanners for the freedom and flexibility of the newer cordless models. Hospitals are rapidly replacing centrally located specimen labeling printers for the workflow benefits of mounting a printer in every room and WoW cart. The early adopters have deployed and are reporting tremendous benefits to their nursing staff and the return on investment has exceeded even their expectations.  Clearly these trends are expected to expand this year as most leading hospitals and networks refresh their barcode technology in support of their nursing staffs.

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