When choosing a barcode scanner, the most important things to consider are:
- Product compatibility with both your hardware and software (EHR and/or registry)
- Ability to read and translate 2D barcodes
- Staff preference – if the scanner isn't user friendly for the staff, it won't get used
- Choose a scanner that is of medical-device quality and "disinfectant ready." Nearly all scanners labeled as a "healthcare scanner" have this feature.
- Discuss software configurability and compatibility with both your EHR vendor and registry or IIS.
Four Types of Scanners
Corded. These have been the more commonly used scanners, to date.
Pros: less expensive; get their power from the computer they are plugged into; all data processing and decoding is done on the computer
Cons: Because they are corded, they need to be physically attached to a computer via a USB or serial port. In a busy office with a central vaccine dispensing area this could be problematic, as many vaccine administrators would each need a computer and scanner, or would need to share.
Cordless. These are also commonly used, and function similarly to the corded ones. Instead of being tethered to a computer, however, these communicate via Bluetooth signal. Data processing and decoding still occurs on the computer, but staff have the freedom to scan further from the base.
Pros: increased flexibility and mobility
Cons: higher cost than corded; independent power needs (since it isn't connected directly to a computer); each cordless device needs to be paired with a specific computer and it must not switch to another computer, if the other computer happens to be closer in distance
Wi-Fi with built in processing support. These scanners are mostly used in mobile applications, where access to a computer is not possible, or practical. Most function independently and have their own operating system.
Pros: they are independent of a computer
Cons: even more expensive than cordless; may require custom programming to communicate with the EHR
Refrigerator units with built in scanning devices and software. These are relative newcomers to the field. The scanner is integrated into the unit itself.
Pros: one-stop shop for not only scanning, but storage and handling
Cons: high monthly lease fee; small in capacity; designed to handle the average vaccine supply for a practice with 2-3 providers; currently limited to only reading 2D barcodes from secondary packaging