November 12, 2012
QR Codes In Health Care
By Michael D. Shaw
Familiar to most smart phone users, the QR Code (short for Quick Response Code) has been around since 1994. Originally developed for the automotive industry, QR Codes are a significant improvement over the one-dimensional bar codes most commonly used for inventory control and retail point-of-purchase price scanning.
At present, there are six different versions of QR codes. The smallest, Version 1, can contain 25 alphanumeric characters. The largest, Version 40, can contain 4096 alphanumeric characters. Compare this to the 13 numeric digit limitation of the standard UPC one-dimensional bar codes.
Around three years ago, QR codes began to appear in all sorts of print media, and typically contained links to the advertiser's website. With a variety of free QR code reader apps available for camera-equipped smart phones, the technology was widely accepted within a short time. Deployed in this manner, QR Codes became the interface between print and digital media.
The notion of "reading" an analog or fixed object would soon be expanded. Apps such as Google Goggles enable a sort of visual search, whereby sundry items—including artwork, books, business card contact information, and landmarks—can be scanned, and relevant information obtained. Certainly, QR Codes have numerous applications in health care. Last year, journo and self-described proud techno-geek Sara Jackson detailed a few of them in FierceMobileHealthcare's weekly newsletter...
Not surprisingly, a major use of QR codes is marketing. I recently got some insight on this from Dale Rennie, founder and CEO of OMS Asia—an integrated digital marketing firm. The company has recently introduced GrapevineQR Viral™, which they refer to as "The Cure for the Common Code."
As Dale explained:
Ken Honeywell, partner/creative director of Indianapolis-based Well Done Marketing recommends these uses (among others) of QR codes in health care marketing:
As with all marketing tools, though, it is important to avoid the pitfalls. A few months ago, veteran health care reporter and editor Gienna Shaw (no relation) posted an article entitled "QR code fails: How marketers are ruining potential patient engagement tool."
For starters, she refers to a QR code on a subway station billboard, posted on the wall across from the tracks, behind the third rail. And then there are numerous cases of a QR Code which links to a website not at all optimized for mobile use. Her most obvious good advice? "Don't put a QR code on a poster about any medical condition unless you personally would be willing to stand up in a room full of strangers and shout that you'd like more information about it."
Let your imagination wander...
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