Marking a Few Anniversaries in Bar Coding

I have been thinking a lot about bar codes lately. Not only did the bar code celebrate the 60th anniversary of its invention last year, but this year, GS1 marks the 40th anniversary of the Universal Product Code bar code. And this month in Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News, as part of our 20th anniversary celebration, we look back at 20 years of bar coding of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Daphne Allen

As ubiquitous as the bar code is in daily commerce, it still has inroads to make in healthcare, especially at the item level. Frank Kilzer, Vice President of Material & Facility Resources at St. Alexius Medical Center, told me about 50 to 60 percent of the items that his hospital receives carry bar codes at the unit-of-use level. His team continues to apply their own bar codes to 100 percent of the incoming items to be sure that every item can be scanned throughout the system.

A number of regulations around the world are prompting wider use of bar codes, as Craig Stobie, global life sciences sector manager for Domino, points out in our article:

We have subsequently seen similar legislation initially introduced in Turkey (Jan 2010), France (Jan 2011), and South Korea (Jan 2012). The legislative requirements for the adoption of bar codes, often unique at item level, have now become widespread with the United States, China, India, and Europe all in the process of ratifying requirements.

For medical devices, manufacturers serving the US market are awaiting the FDA's final rule on Unique Device Identification (UDI). Globally, the industry is working to harmonize UDI through the International Medical Device Regulators Forum.

So, chances are that you, too, are thinking about bar codes, especially when it comes to meeting UDI requirements. Are you implementing item-level bar codes? What are the challenges, and how will you overcome them?

I read this interesting plea in the Institute for Safe Medication Practices's March 7, 2013, newsletter:

We wish manufacturers would do a better job with quality control for bar codes placed on packaging. These issues can interrupt the workflow of healthcare practitioners.

What do you think? Will quality, not mere presence, be the ultimate hurdle?

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Daphne Allen, Editor, Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging


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