Using QR Codes to Support Medical Education

By Scott Bradbury, Director of E-Learning, American Academy of Pediatrics

Alliance National Learning Competency 5.3
Utilize effective management and communication skills when working with organizational leaders, staff, volunteers, peers and learners.

Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) were first developed by the automotive industry in Japan in the 1990s, but these square matrix barcodes have exploded in popularity in the last few years, especially in the area of consumer advertising. Once scanned, a code allows users quick access to information, most commonly in the form of URLs and other web addresses. There are many potential uses related to supporting medical education, so let’s take a look at some of those possibilities.

To create a code, you’ll need a QR Code generator, and there are many to choose from online in the form of websites or apps. The codes are free of any licensing, and therefore cost nothing to make. Some user-friendly QR Code generators can be found at www.qr-code-generator. com, which is a free generator with numerous tracking features, or, which has multiple output and customization options. To generate a QR Code, you simply type your website into the designated box, click “Create QR Code” and then download the code that is generated in your preferred format.

To scan and use the codes, your audience will need a reader of some sort. Most commonly, this comes in the form of mobile apps for your smartphone that utilize the camera on your device to scan the code. There are dozens to choose from, and many of the best are free. Some examples of reader apps available in iOS/ Android include: RedLaser (combined barcode and QR Code reader) and Quick Scan (free and one of the highest rated).

You can put codes anywhere — in PowerPoint slides, on posters, in agenda books — the motto “any size, any place” truly applies. In support of an annual meeting or other live event, some ideas for codes include:

  • Place a link back to the event website in advertising pieces and brochures.
  • To capture evaluations, embed survey links into a QR Code and place and display in session handouts or on closing slides.
  • For poster sessions, place on the wall next to the poster to share out contact information or links to other resources.
  • Add value to room signage by creating codes linking to session handouts or other related learning materials housed on a web page.
  • QR Codes are great of point-of-care learning; for exam­ple, adding a code to a spirometry unit to remind staff of operational best practice with a short video tutorial.

Below is an example of a QR Code that sends you to the Alliance Publications page:


With so many possibilities, it is important to start small and simple. Create codes that allow you to track usage and gather analytics so you can learn and understand how they are being used. And most importantly, respect and understand your target audience by using QR Codes in a way that is going to be most useful and relevant to them.

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