Bar codes, Google, and Me

I was reminded yet again today of my days in programming, EDI, and bar coding. Google often changes it’s logo on their search page to recognize something famous on a specific day. Today is the 57th anniversary of the first patent on the bar code. Their logo is represented by a Code 128 symbology that if scanned would read, you guessed it, Google. Almost 15 years ago I was part of the original team that brought the concept of electronic postage to the USPS. We were using the then state of the art 2D symbology PDF417 with encryption. I am sure you have one on your license these days.

There isn’t an automated industry today that doesn’t have integrated bar code systems. Which leads me to the medical industry. Where would it be today without bar coding? One can only imagine! I am not sure hospitals, laboratories, or pharmacies could actual function without bar code systems these days.

I did some research today on medical bar coding. I just knew there would be specific symbologies that were used and maybe even some new ones developed for medical processes. After all, this has not been on my priority reading list for some time now. The health care industry never seems to amaze me at the lack of standardization. Interesting that it all comes back to “standards”. One I could find was the International Society of Blood Transfusion – ISBT 128. As of May 1, 2008 (just over a year ago!) the bar code was made the international standard in transfusion medicine. The FDA requires most prescription drugs to have bar code labels. This rule was adopted just 5 years ago in 2004. Here is a site I thought was interesting,

But lack of standards does not stop the endless list of bar code systems available. Hospitals bar code wrist bands that identify patients and their procedures and drug dispensing during hospital stays. This ultimately can be compiled for billing. Specimens gathered at offices, clinics, or hospitals don’t go anywhere without bar coded labels. Asset tracking for large hospital systems would be near impossible without bar coding. And even Rx unique identification numbers are bar coded.

So why is it that you can not do business with a car manufacturer unless your products are labeled and conform to the industry standard but in the health care industry it doesn’t matter much? And finally, when was it that bar code became one word? And for those on the fence hyphenating it, that is not right either!

Happy Anniversary, Bar Codes!