Bar Coding in the Laboratory

  • Daniel F. Cowan
Part of the Health Informatics book series (HI)


A bar code is a machine-readable code in the form of stripes, bars, or squares affixed to an object for the purposes of identification.1 It is a binary system with several elaborations, including one-dimensional, two-dimensional, and matrix codes. The development of bar coding was a response to the need to rapidly identify objects and incorporate information about them into a format that does not depend on the ability of the human eye to interpret subtle variations in the printing or writing of letters and numbers but rather permits machine reading of symbols and relation of the encoded object to a database. It is generally accepted that manual transcription is the most important source of laboratory errors, especially the transcription of numbers. It is estimated that one in 300 keystrokes is an error. A misspelled word may be obvious, but transposition of digits is not. Also, manual transcription is slow and might have to be repeated several times in the progress of a specimen through the laboratory. Speeding data entry and reducing errors may improve overall laboratory productivity.2


Linear Code Matrix Code Material Safety Data Sheet Material Safety Data Sheet Symbol Character 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel F. Cowan

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