Using two-dimensional barcodes for vaccine products will save $300 million

A new study conducted by researchers at RTI International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention found that using two-dimensional barcodes on vaccine products would save more than $300 million by 2023.

"Our study shows how changing something as simple as how vaccine product labels are barcoded can mitigate documentation problems and increase the safety of the immunization system," Alan O'Connor, a senior economist at RTI and the paper's lead author, said. "And thanks to advances in technology, from the perspective of the immunization system, it's now cheaper to use 2D barcodes than not use them."

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act requires immunization providers to record the vaccine and lot information for all vaccines administered to patients. Current product labels have linear barcodes which contain the National Drug Code, but do not contain the expiration dates or lot numbers. Incorporating two-dimensional barcodes that contain the National Drug Code, expiration date and lot number is projected to save between $310 and $334 million between 2011 and 2023.

The two-dimensional barcode can easily be scanned to verify it matches doctors' prescriptions and will automatically fill-in the product information. Current methods must be done by-hand and often times the information is left blank or inaccurate. The two-dimensional system will also enter immunizations into registries.

The study was published in June's issue of Vaccine. In a survey, more than 3,600 primary care providers, 54 percent of family physicians, 60 percent of pediatric practitioners and 39 percent of health departments said they would use the two-dimensional barcode system.