Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, are square, scannable codes that can store significantly more data - vaccine product identification, expiration date, and lot number – than linear barcodes – product identification only. Using 2D barcoding technology can benefit both you and your patients.

Benefits of 2D Barcoding

Practice Benefits

  • Improved time efficiency. One simple scan enters data automatically and reduces the risk of documentation error.
  • Appropriate vaccine inventory. 2D barcode scanning systems can interact with an inventory module. By using these, you are able to have an electronic account of actual inventory, which allows you to order "just in time," and keep "just the right amount" of vaccine on hand, reducing potential monetary losses.
  • Improved billing accuracy. Using an electronic system, as opposed to a manual system, increases revenue by capturing all vaccines given, and makes sure charges are generated for all vaccines given.
  • State registry data entry. When state registries offer direct scanning, practices without an EHR (or those whose EHR does not upload information to the state registry) benefit from 2D barcode scanning by directly scanning the vaccine information into the state registry.

Patient Benefits

  • Improved patient safety. Some EHRs offer additional clinical safety checks that flag an incorrect or expired vaccine. Scanning at or before administration benefits practices by taking advantage of this added safety functionality.
  • Reduced administration errors. When using 2D barcode technology, with a properly designed software system, a scanned vaccine should match the ordered vaccine (eg, HepA not confused with HepB).
  • Better documentation. Using 2D barcoding technology ensures that the proper vaccine identifiers (name, lot number, expiration date) are recorded on the patient's record.
  • Other vaccine problems identified. Serialized 2D barcodes enable product verification, which helps to identify potentially compromised vaccine products (i.e., recalled, contaminated, or counterfeit product) within the supply chain.
  • Better reporting. 2D barcoding technology ensures that the proper vaccine identifiers will be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Errors from manually entered data make it nearly impossible to accurately detect problematic lots or patterns.

Choosing a Barcode Scanner

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.
  • Whether the scanner is of medical-device quality and "disinfectant ready." Most scanners labeled as a "healthcare scanner" have this feature.
  • Software configurability and compatibility with both your EHR vendor and registry or IIS.
  • Whether you want corded (less expensive, need to be attached to computer and powered by computer) or cordless (communicates by Bluetooth, not tethered to computer, needs independent power source, allows for more freedom for staff, but must be paired with a specific computer).
  • If you need a scanner with wifi and built-in processing support – these are typically used in mobile applications that lack access to a computer.
  • Whether you’d like a specialized refrigeration unit with a built-in scanning device and software – these units may have a high monthly lease fee and may only accommodate enough vaccine supply for an average 2-3 provider practice.

Getting the Scanner to “Work”

Scanners, once configured for the specific EHR, practice management system, or IIS set-up, can decode the 2d barcode into a "string of numbers". Once this string of numbers is available, the configuration from the scanner to the health record translates the information into the appropriate data needed to document GTIN, lot number, and expiration date. The CDC has developed a comprehensive site to help EHR vendors perform these functions, including a CDC provided code set (CDC code set) and functional capabilities report (Functional Capabilities Report). ​


Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics