Magazine Article | April 23, 2013

Bar Code Scanner Project Leads To Ongoing Healthcare Sales

By Dan Schell, Business Solutions magazine.

A sale including 1,400 bar code scanners was pivotal to the future success of this start-up reseller/software developer.

If you’re a VAR that sells any type of solution that includes bar code scanners, you’re probably never surprised by the multitudes of inventory control and trackand- trace applications — no matter how unusual they are. But unless you’re focused on the healthcare vertical and, in particular, the medical devices used in surgical procedures, developing a solution to track “parts” like replacement knees and hips may seem … well, odd.

WebOps is a reseller and software developer that is dedicated to that specific healthcare niche. The company offers a Web-based solution that, among other things, helps hospitals and medical device manufacturers and distributors track and control field inventory. For example, one client was a manufacturer of orthopaedic replacement parts (e.g. hips, knees, elbows) that wanted to eliminate the problems associated with the manual data entry being conducted by its staff of nationwide sales representatives.

Manual Data Entry: Never A Good Idea
As you can imagine, any medical device designed to be implanted in a person’s body is considered a high-value asset for a hospital, often costing many thousands of dollars. Hospitals need to keep a certain number of these products — which are often provided on a consignment basis from the manufacturer — in stock. In the case of WebOps’ client, that’s where the sales rep gets involved.

It’s the sales rep’s job not only to sell the products to hospitals and physicians, but also to order and receive these items into a hospital’s area for storing such devices. Collecting data for a joint replacement or conducting a cycle count of inventory requires a blend of data inputs: a keypad for data such as patient name and date and a scanner for reading part numbers embedded into bar codes. “Prior to using our solution, the reps were attaching stickers that included the equipment’s information onto a page and faxing those pages to the manufacturer’s HQ where the info was manually typed into a computer database,” explains Howard Weathersby, VP of business development for WebOps. “In doing so, they occasionally were making errors, which the client had to avoid, considering the importance of such data [e.g. used to track devices implanted into patients].”

Firmware/Integration Work Convinces Reseller
WebOps Logistics is a mobile, Web-based solution that helps companies automate and mobilize field sales and inventory management. Device manufacturers and distributors can leverage iPads, smartphones, laptops, and PCs to schedule and manage surgical cases, implants, and instruments in real time from any location.

The device manufacturer wanted a way to use a bar code scanner to enter the inventory data directly into the software it used at its home office. After contacting a few bar code scanner companies, WebOps ultimately chose the Cipherlab 1660 scanner for this client’s needs. “One of the key reasons we chose Cipherlab was it developed firmware for its scanner that enabled users to switch from scanning bar codes to using the virtual keypad on an iPhone or iPad with a push of the power button on the 1660 [the scanner uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPhone or iPad],” Weathersby explains. “Some of the other solutions we reviewed required you to turn off the scanner entirely before the virtual keypad would come up on the smartphone.” He says other selling points of the Cipherlab 1660 scanner included:

  • ability to use two AAA batteries and stay charged for 80 continuous working hours
  • small enough to fit into a pocket
  • interfaces with Android, Apple iOS, and BlackBerry devices via firmware.

15 New Clients
It took nearly two years to deploy approximately 1,400 Cipherlab scanners and implement the WebOps Logistics application. With the latter, the device manufacturer can also keep track of each healthcare facility’s stock as well as predict when to resupply based on historical trends. And thanks to the accuracy of the scanners, there are no more data entry errors.

According to Weathersby, this project was very important for WebOps, which was only a start-up when it landed the job. He said that since the success of this installation, the company has deployed at least 15 other similar solutions for other healthcare clients, some of which include the Cipherlab 1661 and 1664 scanners.