Pediatric Health System Streams 2D Vaccine Barcode Data Into EHRs

Cook Children's Health System has developed a way to scan barcodes on vaccine bottles and transfer the data into Microsoft HealthVault and Athenahealth's EHR database.

Cook Children's Health System, in Fort Worth, Texas, has initiated use of 2D barcodes on vaccine bottles, which facilitates the streaming of data into health record databases such as the Microsoft HealthVault patient portal and Athenahealth's AthenaClinicals electronic health record (EHR) application.

Cook Children's is a nonprofit pediatric health system with a history dating back to 1918.

Athenahealth is a provider of cloud practice management and EHR applications. Its Web-based EHR platform,AthenaClinicals, allows physicians to input patient histories, symptoms and diagnoses. Cook Children's began working with Athenahealth on the data link between vaccines and EHRs in February 2010.

PedsPal, the physician group's purchasing program at Cook Children's, is working with vaccine vendors Sanofi Pasteur and Merck to have them include the barcodes on vaccine bottles, Ryan Champlin, vice president of operations for Cook Children's physician network, told eWEEK.

Cook Children's is planning to showcase its 2D barcoding technology at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference from Oct. 15-18 in Boston. Athenahealth announced the 2D barcode initiative on Oct. 12.

Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted the requirement to use linear (1D) barcodes on vaccines in August, physicians can now scan barcodes into EHRs. Vaccine manufacturers have been allowed to include linear barcodes on bottles since 2004, but the barcodes were too large to fit on the bottles, Champlin noted.

Within the next year, 2D barcodes should begin appearing on vaccine bottles, according to Champlin. The barcodes measure about a quarter of an inch square.

Scanning vaccine barcode data into EHRs will allow health care practices to better manage their vaccine supply and make sure vaccines are administered to the right child, along with the correct dose and timing, according to Athenahealth.

By inputting the vaccine information into patients' EHRs rather than separate vaccine logs, doctors and clinicians will be able to eliminate errors, according to Champlin. "This takes away the opportunity for mistakes and allows the Athena software to confirm that we're giving the right vaccine to the child," he explained.

Scanning the barcode also allows physicians to double-check the vaccine lot and expiration data, Champlin said. "2D specifically gives us the ability to capture info from the vaccine file to improve the safety of the vaccine," Champlin said.

Parents, clinicians and pharmacists can scan vaccine barcodes intoHealthVault using mobile phones.

By storing vaccine information in health record databases such as HealthVault and AthenaClinicals, consumers will be able to maintain a record of vaccines from years ago, suggested Jonathan Bush, Athenahealth's CEO and chairman.

"In health care, the ability to not only more effectively track vaccines but to build this data into an EHR platform that can follow the patient is an absolute game-changer, and we are confident that the forward thinking of Cook Children's to again utilize the power of our cloud-based clinical network is going to lead to an invaluable level of improved patient safety," Bush said in a statement.

With HealthVault, Microsoft has created a capture path for vaccines into the PHR portal, Champlin noted. At any pharmacy or doctor's office, by scanning the 2D code on the vaccine bottle, patients' vaccine data will flow into a HealthVault account.

"Applications such as this one for vaccine management will help people to understand the importance of connecting information throughout the health system and making it promptly accessible to the people who need it, whether doctors, medical inventory managers, or parents caring for their children," Peter Neupert, corporate vice president for the health solutions group at Microsoft, said in a statement.

In addition to the ability to stream vaccine data from barcodes, Microsoft has updated HealthVault to allow patients to create an emergency file, including data such as active medications, allergies, blood type and emergency contacts. First responders can refer to this information in an emergency.

HealthVault also recently opened its database torecords from Google Health.