AIM: To assess the effect of the use of bar code readers and programmable keypads for entry of specimen details and results in two microbiology laboratories. METHODS: The solutions selected in each laboratory are described. The benefits resulting from the implementation were measured in two ways. The speed of data entry and error reduction were measured by observation. A questionnaire was completed by users of bar codes. RESULTS: There were savings in time and in reduced data entry errors. Average time to enter a report by keyboard was 21.1 s v 14.1 s for bar coded results entry. There were no observed errors with the bar code readers but 55 errors with keystroke entries. The laboratory staff of all grades found the system fast, easy to use, and less stressful than conventional keyboard entry. CONCLUSIONS: Indirect time savings should accrue from the observed reduction in incorrectly entered data. Any microbiology laboratory seeking to improve the accuracy and efficiency of data entry into their laboratory information systems should consider the adoption of this technology which can be readily interfaced to existing terminals.
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