Bar Code-Reading BlackBerrys Could Aid Health IT

A new device lets BlackBerry handheld computers read bar codes, a capability that should make them more popular among health care providers.

A new device allows BlackBerry handheld computers to read bar codes, a capability that should make them more popular among health care providers.

The device, called LaserField, integrates data collection software from Vancouver-based Flowfinity Wireless Inc. and a bar-code reader from Infinite Peripherals, based in Irvine, Calif. Bar code-enabled BlackBerrys will help track inventory and will speed data entry, Flowfinity said in a statement.

Bar codes are used in less than 5 percent of hospitals to ensure that patients receive the right medications. But more than 35 percent of hospitals ranked as "most wired" use some sort of electronic means to match patients with medications.

In addition, bar codes are used for other purposes such as tracking medical devices and patient samples. The use of bar codes is expected to rise, presumably along with devices that can read bar codes and access the relevant data.

About a quarter of physicians use handheld computers in the United States, a figure that is predicted to double over the next year. However, popular applications are not available on all devices.

For example, Epocrates clinical reference applications are used regularly by about half a million health care providers. The product can be used only with Palm OS or, as of November, with Pocket PCs.

This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved wBloodCare software from CareFusion to track products from blood banks. The wireless application matches records from products with codes in patients electronic medical record and can be used at the point of care. The application is designed for use with a handheld wireless PDA from Symbol Technologies that is equipped with a scanner.

Jeff Scott, director of sales and marketing at Infinite Peripherals, said the bar-code capability should expand the uses of BlackBerrys. "Our customers will be able to deploy a solution faster and will get results sooner thanks to the LaserField bundle were offering."

According to Research In Motion Ltd., the manufacturer of BlackBerrys, LaserField is the first integrated bar-code enabler for its wireless products. Priced at $500, it works with any USB (Universal Serial Bus)-enabled BlackBerry wireless handheld.


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