Study: Use of 2D barcodes could save healthcare $300M

After years of regulatory wrangling, the switch to 2D barcoding of vaccines is now well under way. Sanofi ($SNY) is rolling out the barcodes on 6 more pediatric vaccines this year, and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pilot project is live. Healthcare savings are the next step.

A CDC-funded study published in Vaccine has tried to quantify just how much the 2D technology could save healthcare systems. From 2011 to 2023, net economic benefits were forecasted to be $310 million to $334 million. Researchers reached the figure after weighing up the financial effects of more efficient documentation and other factors. Currently used linear barcodes are limited in the information they can carry. Replacing them with data-rich 2D barcodes should boost efficiency by ending the need to enter information manually.

Healthcare providers have long recognized these potential benefits, and the Vaccine Identification Standards Initiative recommended use of 2D barcodes as far back as 1997. Cost concerns held back adoption until the FDA reexamined the issue in 2011 and cleared the way for more widespread use of 2D barcode technology. The rethink came after the 2D cost became more favorable. RTI senior economist and lead author Alan O'Connor said: "Thanks to advances in technology, from the perspective of the immunization system, it's now cheaper to use 2D barcodes than not use them."

Manufacturers face one-time costs though. The study authors interviewed 7 manufacturers that collectively produce 90% of FDA-licensed vaccines. While 5 of the manufacturers planned to adopt 2D barcodes, they all acknowledged that the transition would involve one-time costs. These costs could total $31 million, or $1.2 million per packaging line refitted to handle 2D barcodes. In some cases the outlay is expected to be offset by the elimination of peel-off labels.

- here's the paper
- check out the release