Just as bar codes have become an everyday part of our lives in grocery and department stores, factories, libraries, etc., hospitals and physician practices are also recognizing the advantages of implementing bar codes for their capital equipment inventories. In all businesses, correct implementation of bar codes can help to properly track all assets, and act as a quick and easy way of entering, sorting, and tracking data.
Hospitals have experienced many benefits of barcoding their capital assets, in particular their medical and IT equipment. Even a small hospital may have thousands of assets, and capturing this information can help to properly track the equipment and which department it belongs to.
Healthcare inventory asset classes can include:
•Medical equipment (monitoring, lab, imaging)
•Furniture & fixtures
•Kitchen & office equipment
Inventory barcoding services can record the following data:
•Manufacturer, model & serial numbers
•Equipment location or department
•Owner of the equipment in the case of a multi-physician group practice
Overall, there are many advantages to barcoding in a healthcare setting, including improved efficiency for future inventory projects. A manual physical inventory of assets can be a time consuming process, however, with barcoding the inventory process conducted is two to three times faster.
There are also advantages of barcoding in a physician group setting. Take for instance a multi-physician group practice. When there are multiple doctors conducting business in one building, equipment can easily become misplaced or unaccounted for.
Conducting an inventory of the physician practice and utilizing barcoding is the best method for properly identifying assets within the practice, especially when there are multiple doctors working together. Management can also have the necessary information right at their fingertips to access which equipment may need to be replaced. Through barcoding, asset ownership can also be noted should a physician decide to retire from the practice, documentation can be provided if the equipment will need to be purchased by the other doctors in the practice.
It has become regular practice for hospitals to use barcoding to plan for future capital purchases, raise capital through identification and sale of used equipment, and reduce taxes and insurance premiums. A physician practice may also find it helpful to barcode their assets if the medical practice is merging with other entities or has plans to be acquired by a hospital or other entity.
By using barcoding for equipment in a physician practice, it allows easier reconciliation. Updating the asset sub-ledger is a quick and easy process and can be completed by simply downloading the equipment from the bar code readers. New equipment can be added to the ledger as necessary.
The information that is collected in both a physical inventory and by using barcoding and be compiled into an electronic inventory report for easy data viewing, as well as printed reports for quick reference. By utilizing barcode technology, equipment and fixed asset inventories can be completed accurately and efficiently.
What IS a bar code?
A bar code is a small, condensed graphic representation of data that is machine readable. Bar codes can utilize a combination of numbers, letters, and spaces that act as a reference to data associated with a particular item or asset.
In 1948, a local food chain store owner approached Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia to ask to research a method to automatically capture product information at the checkout. A graduate student named Bernard Silver worked to research and develop the first ideas for a bar coding system. Silver created the first bar codes using patterns of ultraviolet ink, but developers found the ink to be very costly and inconsistent.
Silver then joined forces with fellow graduate student Norman Joseph Woodland to develop another solution. The next idea implemented a linear bar code with dots, dashes, and a mix of narrow and wide lines. The first patent for the bar code was developed in 1949, and shortly after the first bar code reader was developed.
Bar code was first used commercially in 1966 and evolved into a U.P.C., or Uniform Product Code, invented in 1973. The first U.P.C. scanner was used at a Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, and the very first project to be printed with a bar code was a pack of Wrigley’s Gum.