Friday, June 26, 2009

35 years behind the wave / Detroit billboard

Driving in Detroit recently I noticed a billboard touting Detroit Medical Center's (DMC) new initiative to use bar codes to scan and track 100% of the medications it administeres. The hospital system proudly runs a TV commercial with the same message. Interestingly, this article in today's New York Times explains that today marks the 35th anniversary of the first use of a bar code in a retail setting (a ten-pack of Juicy Fruit gum that cost 67 cents, scanned on the morning of June 26, 1974).

If you are not from around here you might think that, 35 years after the first use of bar codes, the DMC is the last hospital to catch up. Unfortunately, DMC is the first hospital in Michigan, and among the first the the US, to use bar codes to track medications...

So why has it been advantageous for 35 years for retailers to track Juicy Fruit gum using bar codes, but it has not been advantageous for hospitals to use the same inexpensive technology to track medications?