QR Codes: The Next Level of Social Media

Neil Baum, MD

Neil Baum, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA, and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice: Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers. He is also author of Social Media For The Healthcare Profession, Greenbranch Publishing, 2011. He blogs at


You’ve seen those small black and white squares that look like they could be hanging on the wall in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. What are they and what do they do? They are quick response codes or QR codes.

You may have seen QR Codes in a magazine advertisement, on a billboard, a web page or even on someone’s t-shirt. Once QR code is in your cell phone, it may give you details about a medical practice (allowing users to search for the practice’s location), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a Website which you can click to see a video, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

QR codes (they can be read quickly by a cell phone with a QR reader) are similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. You have seen barcodes every time you check out at the grocery store as the scanner used by the checkout clerk looks for the bar codes to find the price and number of items you are purchasing. The key difference between the barcodes and the QR codes is the amount of data they can hold or share. The other key feature of QR Codes is that instead of requiring a chunky hand-held scanner to scan a barcode, many cell phones can scan a QR code. The phone’s camera snaps the code and takes the user to a Website or video with more information – no typing needed – just point and click.

Any of these desired functions are easily achieved by properly creating your QR code. It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into the QR code generator and it only takes just a few minutes.

QR Code Generators and Readers

There are a number of sites for generating QR codes and they’re all free. An Internet search for QR code generator will offer many choices.,, just a few of the many free QR code generators.

The cell phone needs a QR code reader. It takes literally 1 minute for someone with an iPhone or Android phone to find and install the reader. ( is a user friendly reader that can be downloaded onto you iPhone or Android)

The most widely used reader in the world is i-nigma ( It accommodates virtually any type of camera phone.

Applications for QR Codes

There’s no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes. The ability of QR codes to connect people with each other and to multimedia digital content is very useful for connecting medical practices and also useful for patients.

You can place QR codes on your business cards or brochures for easy directions to your social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, your blog site, or Twitter.

You can also put a large QR code sign in the office’s reception area connecting patients to educational material that is pertinent to your practice.

Bottom line: QR codes broaden your reach, allow you to attract a larger number of potential patients, and also keep your existing patients engaged and attracted to your practice. Today’s social media including QR codes has the new form of virtual word of mouth marketing. QR codes also send a message that you and your practice are on the cutting edge of technology. Just imagine the difference in perception that you create when your practice can be accessed from multiple different venues versus a practice where they can only be found in a phone book!