For a medical practice with a typical immunization program, it is generally understood that the procurement costs of vaccines are second only to healthcare provider and staff salaries.  With the costs of some vaccines well over $100.00, it is not unusual for a multi-provider pediatrics practice to have many thousands of dollars of vaccine inventory on hand at one time.  Given large patient volumes and the correspondingly high number of immunizations administered over the course of a day, many medical practices consider the tracking of vaccine inventory and the verification of reimbursement to be an especially daunting task for a staff primarily concerned with delivering effective and compassionate healthcare. 

Nearly everyone is familiar with the small images of seemingly random vertical lines that are found on almost everything from supermarket items to mail to library books – the barcode has revolutionized the way businesses are run and items are tracked.  When decoded by a compatible scanning device, the item in question can be rapidly identified by its reference number that is encoded in the sequence of lines and spaces.  This number in turn may be fed into a product database to gather countless details about the item.  Some medical applications have capitalized on this technology to streamline a number of operations to make their processes safer and more efficient – but with the myriad dose-specific reporting requirements for vaccines, how best could a medical practice make use of the benefits provided by automatic identification to better manage a vaccine program?

Enter the 2D barcode.  Though appearing more haphazard than even the familiar linear barcodes that have been around for decades, the 2D image is in fact a powerhouse data storage unit that can hold literally thousands of characters in a single code.  In the last few years several vaccine manufacturers have ramped up their use of the 2D barcode so that currently nearly 50 vaccines are shipping with a barcode printed on each vial or syringe.  The advantages that are now recognized with the new configuration: manufacturers now have the ability to include product identification, expiration date, and lot number information within the code, allowing a specialized data collection system to directly read and record this critical data.  What’s more, the new configuration allows the practice to rapidly and effectively  perform detailed, individual dose tracking from receipt through patient assignment and billing verification, and ultimately through confirmation that the dose has been fully reimbursed.

This new capability is welcome news to countless medical practices that administer dozens of immunizations per day, in many cases performing these services in multiple locations.  Considering the fast paced flow of a busy vaccine program, any available method that can be employed to increase efficiency and lighten the load for office staff will be of significant value to the practice.


One such medical practice that is taking full advantage of these extensive vaccine tracking capabilities now available is Pediatric Associates of Franklin, located in Franklin, TN.  By virtue of its membership in the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation based in Nashville, Pediatric Associates of Franklin became acquainted with DoseTracer™ Inventory and Payment Tracking Software for Pharmaceuticals, a product of Custom PC Programming, LLC located in Dayton OH.  “We have been using DoseTracer software in our group practice here in Franklin since last year,” states Pediatric Associates of Franklin Clinical Director Joann Morris, LPN, CPC.  “The system is very easy to learn, very user friendly, and an invaluable resource.”

Created to track inventory and reimbursement of drugs and vaccines dispensed in the clinic or physician office, the capabilities of DoseTracer software go far beyond one dimensional inventory systems that are on the market. Through efficiency gains achieved by greatly facilitating much of the administrative process and record keeping, and by reducing the time required to assure billing accuracy and proper reimbursement, those medical practices using DoseTracer software report tangible improvement to the bottom line.

“The single most time saving feature is the ability to quickly reconcile my vaccine inventory and account for each vaccine,” explains Ms. Morris.  “Knowing that it is easy for staff to not mark or to incorrectly mark the encounter form and then to have charges entered into the billing system incorrectly or not all, I began tracking our vaccine usage on a daily basis. I was shocked at the amount of missed revenue. For example, if one 11 year HMV did not have charges marked for the Tdap, Menactra, Gardasil 9  this would result in $550.00 of lost revenue (including admin fees). There were days that I would spend an hour or more attempting to reconcile my vaccine numbers. Since we have begun using DoseTracer software, I can quickly run a report that identifies each vaccine scanned and the patient who received it. I can then compare it to my medical management report and easily identify any discrepancies.”

Through the collaborative efforts of Pediatric Associates of Franklin and Custom PC Programming, vaccine record keeping has also been significantly simplified.  According to Ms. Morris, “Another extremely helpful feature is that all required information for administering vaccines is recorded on the Vaccine Administration Record as soon as you scan the dose. This information is carried over to the TN Certificate of Immunization. With the click of a button you are able to print each document. This process saves an incredible amount of time. The forms are accurate, legible and prepared quickly.”

Through custom reporting available with DoseTracer software, C-level executives and providers have instant access to the financial state of the vaccine or drug administration program.  “The reports are easy to create and provide a great deal of useful information,” says Ms. Morris.  “There is even a report that shows billing variations which identifies charges that have not been billed, thereby alerting you of missed revenue.  Another report provides you with an accurate record of vaccine usage by provider. This report lists the number of each vaccine, amount billed and the amount received for each provider and each vaccine.  All the reports and forms generated are very neat and professional looking.”

Automated alerts also provide critical information to notify personnel of stock issues or other discrepancies.  “DoseTracer software helps to insure the accuracy of all aspects of administering vaccines,” explains Ms. Morris.  “You are alerted to low inventory, vaccines that are about to expire, if you are scanning in an incorrect vaccine or a vaccine that has expired.  I am able to create a document that will tell me exactly the number of each vaccine that I have on hand at any moment.”

“Our company delivered our first barcode label printing program in 1988,” explains Mark Naples, President of Custom PC Programming, LLC, “and we evolved into a more fully integrated provider when we began developing and offering inventory solutions in 2002.  Our specialized drug inventory software has been used since 2010 and has scanned many tens of thousands of serialized linear barcodes that are affixed to each incoming drug dose administered by our client practices, resulting in extraordinary bottom line improvements for our users.  When vaccines began shipping with data packed 2D barcodes, we knew there was an opportunity there to offer pediatric practices and others with a vaccine program a system that would transform the way vaccines were tracked in the office, and we went right to work.” 

The key to how DoseTracer software operates resides in the custom interface that is developed to extract patient encounter and billing/reimbursement information from the practice PM system.  Reports generated by the PM system are picked up and processed each morning by DoseTracer software shortly after midnight.  DoseTracer databases are then updated with the information provided by the reports, resulting in extensive and concise one-touch status updates on the billing and reimbursement status of each individual dose.  “We’ve already successfully integrated with many of the major PM system suppliers, and we generally encounter very little difficulty when creating new interfaces,” says Mr. Naples.  “Our process has been refined to the point that preparing and completing a new installation is trivial.” 

DoseTracer software is actually two modules which act largely independently from each other – the inventory module and the billing/reimbursement module.  To meet the needs of those practices that are looking for inventory tracking capability only, Custom PC Programming has introduced an alternative to the extensive functionality provided by DoseTracer software.  Like the premium version, DoseTracer Junior can track inventory on an unlimited number of products across an unlimited number of locations, and can maintain separate inventory counts for VFC product vs. private purchased stock.  The result is a lightweight but powerful tool that requires no interface to the PM system and requires less user input, yet still delivers key inventory data at the click of a mouse, as well as many of the features provided by the flagship version.

Regardless of which version is right for a given practice, it is increasingly apparent to the medical community that tracking of vaccines and drugs is no longer just a good idea, but rather a necessity to ensure that the organization is maximizing its profitability potential.  It is now understood that the implementation of an effective, flexible, and easy to use system is critical to the health of a practice engaging in a vaccine or drug administration program.  Ms. Morris states, “All the nurses seem to really enjoy using the system as it saves a great deal of time.  The folks at Custom PC Programming are very patient, listen to your needs and will adjust the system to meet the requirements of the practice.”