QR Codes: Best practices for Pharma

Jun 10, 2024

With the anticipated update to the ABPI Code expected to include the use of QR codes for linking to prescribing information from printed materials, it's a good time to consider some key areas for adopting this technology.

Simon Zedlewski
Content Marketing Manager, Datapharm

QR Codes help provide a bridge between the physical and the online world. They have the potential to support Pharma’s distribution of medicines information to HCPs (healthcare professionals) in several scenarios, whether it be through events, training or at the point of dispensing.

With QR Codes becoming increasingly attractive for adoption by Pharma, here is a go-to guide for incorporating them into your medicines information processes.

Automate your sharing of up-to-date prescribing information to ensure compliance

Check the size and quality of image

In order for your QR code to be scannable, the size and quality of print are important.

Though printers may often ask for a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi) to maintain print quality, 96dpi is sufficient for normal usage and ensuring they can be easily scanned. 

For the size, you also need to bear in mind the distance you would expect someone to scan it from, whether it’s on-screen, on an event banner or within an educational material.

Should you want to change the scale of an image, it is often better to downsize rather than upsize as you are not stretching the pixels where there is potential for losing clarity.

ℹ️ Also consider the contrast!

Assure the reader of its source

Even the less security conscious might be wary of scanning a QR code if they’re not sure where it’s going to.

Particularly when HCPs are locating information about a medicine, it’s crucial to build that trust with them so that your vital medicine information is ultimately engaged with.

Ensuring that the reader knows where they will be directed to, especially if it’s to a well known and trusted resource, can alleviate any hesitancies to scan and validate their understanding of your product by linking to approved, up-to-date medicines information.

Organisation and processes

If you’ve ever created multiple links of any kind, you’ll know how quickly it can get messy without a proper form of organisation.

It’s paramount, not only that your QR Code links are organised in a centralised location, but that you know where they are going to and for what campaign they are used for.

When multiple people or functions are involved, you should also keep track of who created what and when, ensuring you are audit-ready and keep sight of how they are being used throughout the business.

Having the right processes in place to address these needs is critical, and it requires a lot of time, effort and potentially even bureaucracy when attempting to solve internally.

Does it always go to up-to-date information?

When sharing medicines information, it’s vital for patient safety and compliance that the information is kept updated in line with any changes to the SmPC, PIL or PI.

It’s commonplace to share medicines information through a variety of channels, so make sure you are keeping track of where this information sits and understand how it is being updated following a medicines information change.

You’ll also need to ensure that the page the QR code links to is kept up-to-date or redirects the user whenever there is a change in the SmPC, PIL or PI.

Testing, testing, 1-2-3

There’s nothing worse than having made all the effort to create the QR Code, and have it designed and printed within your materials, only to discover that it’s not working as it should.

Test your QR code on a few different devices and scanning applications before placing it within your materials. This could include testing with Android and Apple mobile devices, using the default camera app and a popular scanning app.

It’s also smart to split test (or A/B test) certain design choices. For instance, you might be weighing up a choice between different locations or sizes on the printed page. For any split testing you do, make sure to limit the change to one thing at a time, so that you can gauge what specific change is having an impact.

Is it compliant?

Check the Code requirements – is your use of QR Codes in line with the ABPI or PAGB code of practice?

When using them to share medicines information, consider the following:

  • Where the QR code is placed
  • Who is going to see the QR code
  • Where the QR code links to
  • How the linked information will be kept up-to-date

Not being Code compliant can result in Code breaches, hefty fines, internal headaches and even reputational damage.

The upcoming update to the ABPI Code of Practice is anticipated to include ‘the use of QR codes to access Prescribing Information from printed materials, which could provide Pharma with a welcome opportunity to get more value out of their content for HCPs.

Learn more about using QR Codes compliantly for your medicines information

Linking to your up-to-date information, such as the PI (Prescribing Information) or grouped PI, can be a lengthy process which requires significant investment in resources without a well-integrated solution.

emc compliance now has QR code functionality included, offering Pharma a simple way to link to up-to-date prescribing information within a couple of minutes, the flexibility of custom QR code sizes for different types of materials and integrated audit reporting.

This means that you have a low-burden, efficient process for managing your prescribing information when adopting QR Codes for your printed materials.

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