Intermec SG20 Bar-Code Scanner Keeps Track of Patients' Data, Health

Intermec's new SG20 bar-code scanner allows hospitals to record patients' data and link with medical records.

From a driver's license to a knee replacement, bar-code scanners can now read almost anything. Intermec Technologies, a manufacturer of data warehousing and rugged mobile computing products, has introduced its SG20 bar-code scanner, which allows caregivers to keep track of patients' data and doctors to avoid losing surgical equipment.

Launched Feb. 13, the SG20 has a large multicolor LED and is available as a 1D or 2D model. It also supports Bluetooth to help health care workers, as well as those in retail and manufacturing, connect the device to a laptop.

The SG20 allows users to tag medical items, such as implants or knee or hip replacement kits, said Marc Osgoodby, director of solution sales and business development for Intermec. In fact, by helping doctors track inventory in the exam room and be accountable for equipment, they can make sure tools, such as sponges, aren't left inside a patient at the end of a surgical procedure, said Osgoodby.

"There are plenty of instances where small medical tools are left behind," Osgoodby told eWEEK. "Automated data capture such as this is very accurate at tracking those pieces and helping to prevent any mishaps."

Intermec claims that the SG20 can read bar codes 50 times faster than competing scanners.

The SG20 incorporates Bluetooth wireless connectivity to allow nurses to be free from lugging computers on wheels (COWs) into an exam room. Tablets are poised to replace COWs.

"They can leave it near the doorway, scan the patient and have some freedom of movement," Osgoodby explained.

Nurses can use the SG20 at an admitting desk or at a patient's bedside. In addition, labs or pharmacies scan medication or equipment using bar-code scanners like the SG20.

It can also withstand disinfectant fluids without degrading plastics on the unit, said Osgoodby.

"The plastics chosen for the SG20 housing have been tested to withstand long-term disinfectants," he said.

Meanwhile, the SG20 provides extra motion tolerance to allow caregivers to scan patients' wristbands or other items quicker and more effectively, said Osgoodby.

"2D imagers that are less motion-tolerant of course will scan 2D images, but they take more patience on the user's part," Osgoodby explained. "In health care, they're trying to free up caregivers' time."

Using bar codes linked to electronic health records (EHRs) allows pharmacists to ensure that medication is prescribed to the right patient.

In hospitals, doctors can match up 2D data on medication bottles with patient wristbands. With vital data encoded on wristbands, doctors can also ensure that any potential allergies to medications are taken into account.

Many states also now have 2D codes on driver's licenses, Osgoodby notes. Insurance cards also have 2D codes.

"When you have the ability to encode that much more information without requiring a database look-up, what you're doing is enabling the caregiver to have the information at the ready a lot faster than if you need to go back to a computer to look something up or do a database look-up," said Osgoodby.

Intermec will demonstrate the SG20 at the HIMSS12 health care IT conference in Las Vegas, which starts Feb. 20.

Bar-code scanning is also being used at Cooks Children's Hospital, where doctors and clinicians pull data from vaccine bottles and stream it into the Microsoft HealthVault patient portal and Athenahealth's AthenaClinicals EHR application.

Meanwhile, Lexmark has a Patient Admissions and Registration platform that allows hospitals to print bar-coded wristbands containing data from patients' EHRs.

In October, Motion Computing announced a SlateMate version of its CL900 Tablet PC that incorporates a bar-code scanner and MagTek magnetic-stripe reader.