Using QR codes in Medicine
We Can But Should We?
A recently introduced technology of QR codes scanning has been gaining public acceptance. Thus, about 14 million of people in the USA accessed QR codes within a one-month period, while 43% use smartphones for this purpose (Jones, 2012). No doubt that this technology has also penetrated into healthcare as a new tool for scanning patient-related information in emergency situations. Thus, several companies (Lifesquare, ID Amber, ScanMedQR.com) have already introduced this technology in a year-long pilot program. The key application of a QR code is supposed to be storage of health-related information of a patient for its quick access by medical personnel in case of emergency. However, Lifesquare experts predict long-term opportunities for using QR codes: application of wristbands to access information about a patient; use of QR codes to access manuals for the use of medical appliances; use of temporary tattoo QR codes to locate patients with dementia; quick access to medication lists (Jackson, 2012). However, this technology seems to be intricate for many people (for example, elderly patients) and involves the use of smartphones and other technological devices, which might be an obstacle. Sharing Lifesquare’s inspiration and looking for the viability of the use of this technology in healthcare, it is still necessary to consider the advantages and disadvantages of QR codes in order to assess its practicability and effectiveness.
As far as the evident benefits of QR technology in healthcare are concerned for both patients and medical staff, they include but are not reduced to the following:
- QR codes allow easy and prompt communication between patients, medical staff, and pharmacies (keeping medical records, prescriptions, etc.);
- this technology provides access to online information, which might be easily updated, unlike paper materials;
- the overall paperwork is significantly reduced, which simplifies access to the necessary information, is eco-friendly, and allows to secure data more effectively;
- patients do not have to remember URLs as they are redirected automatically to access the required information;
- use of QR codes involves great deal of economy not only because paperwork is reduced, but owing to their easy generation and management, especially for automatic patient identification (Garcia-Betances & Huerta, 2012);
- users have access to information from any location, which does not limit them in time and place, which might be used, for example, for patient education purposes;
- QR codes have a very wide range of applications: for example, it can connect healthcare and catering services to balance a patient’s diet promptly;
- this technology reduces human error and increases security and accuracy of records;
- appointments might be made quicker and in a more convenient form;
- healthcare providers might use QR codes for conducting informational campaign about diseases, disseminate knowledge about drugs, medical testing results, etc.
In fact, applications of QR codes are numerous and are not limited to healthcare services only. The use of this technology provides a new level of relationship between patients and healthcare service providers, which, if properly used, facilitates and anticipates it considerably.
On the other hand, QR codes in healthcare have their disadvantages:
- many people are unaware about how, why, and when to use this technology;
- smartphones and other technological devices that have QR code reading option are costly, which might be problematic, for example, for elderly people;
- QR codes are indelible from Internet use, so any problems with connection might complicate all the functions performed through this technology.
Though disadvantages of QR codes are not numerous, service providers should deal with them in order to satisfy patients’ needs. In this regard, it is important to keep the patient-oriented approach instead of technology-driven one.
To conclude, the use of QR codes in healthcare is evidently a step forward to promote quick and quality service of patients. However, patients should make decision about the practicability of using QR codes as it involves investment, such as purchase of a smartphone. This might be an obstacle to the elderly people; however, this investment will pay off in future by providing quick and comprehensive health-related information for healthcare services to be able to provide top-quality assistance. At the same time, in order to eliminate lack of public knowledge about QR technology, informational campaigns should be provided in simple and convenient form to reach every patient. It is important to communicate the real value of using QR codes instead of highlighting the technological progress in healthcare. Thus, people should feel that their health is of primary concern, but not desire to sell a new device to them. Healthcare providers, in their turn, should use QR codes not for the sake of technology, but attempting to reach and help every patient. In this regard, various programs might be introduced in cooperation with governmental and non-governmental institutions to sell smartphones to elderly people with significant reduction. Overall, the use of QR codes is justified for patients of any age, social status, and residence. Having invested in buying a smartphone and spending time on training how to use this technology, a patient will start benefiting from numerous advantages that the use of QR codes in healthcare provides. This process might be considerably facilitated on account of common efforts by healthcare services, governmental and non-governmental institutions, and patients.
- Garcia-Betances, R.I. & Huerta, M.K. (2012). A review of automatic patient identification options for public health care centers with restricted budgets. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 4(1), 1-16.
- Jackson, S. (2012). Are QR codes in your hospital’s clinical future? Web. fiercemobilehealthcare.com <http://www.fiercemobilehealthcare.com/story/are-qr-codes-your-hospitals-clinical-future/2012-06-04>
- Jones, J. (2012). Scanning saves. Response. February, 31-35.