Art in Healthcare's quick response to QR codes

DATE POSTED: 15th of September 2012

QR (Quick Response) codes started as a tracking device in the automobile industry and today can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone equipped with a camera and a code reader, an application which can be downloaded for free from the internet. All you need to do is point your phone at the code and it is automatically scanned. A few seconds later the encoded information appears on your screen. There is no need to key in a long website address and you can do it all while on the move. It is also possible to create your own code and download it on printed materials or online.

Here's a short video explaining how to use a QR code.


Art in Healthcare were prompt to recognise the benefits of this technology for their collection displayed in hospitals and care homes and earlier this year, they initiated a large task that involved several of their staff and a dozen volunteers. Together we created the information texts for the artworks selected for the new Royal Victoria building at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh which included artists such as Elizabeth Blackadder, Alan Davie and John Houston among many others.

Abi Allsopp, the AiH Media Manager, explains: “When a label is scanned by any smartphone, a web page for that specific artwork is opened and the viewer can find out all sorts of information including descriptions and details about the artwork they are looking at, the life and work of the artist who painted it, and other pieces which are similar to it. The project at the Royal Victoria building was generously sponsored by Laing O’Rouke building contractors. Since starting the project in June we have had almost 100 page views per month.”

The number of views mentioned by Abi confirms the opinion generally held that QR codes are more than just a passing phase. The benefits to the patients, staff and visitors are obvious, the QR codes enrich the experience of the artworks and of the moment by opening a whole world of ideas and information in just a few seconds.

If you have not tried it yet, why don’t you have a go, you will find it fascinating.

Martine Foltier Pugh is a freelance writer and visual artist based in Edinburgh

Chris Bushe