Bar Code Scanners aid in medication verification

Posted Date: 6/14/2012

    Mon General Hospital began using bar code scanners in early June to help ensure patient safety in the administration of medications.

    According to a survey by the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP) in 2006, the number one fear of hospitalized patients is that they will be given the wrong medication. Nationally, medication errors contribute to 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries and 7,000 drug-related deaths each year in United States hospitals, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Bar code scanning of patients, medications, laboratory specimens and blood products at the point of care, combined with pharmacy and nursing best practices, prevents harm to patients and saves lives.

    In May 2010 the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the use of bar-coded electronic medication administration records “substantially reduced the rate of errors in order transcription and in medication administration as well as potential adverse drug events.”

    “By using technology (bar code readers and software), at the most basic level, it will help to verify that the right drug is being administered to the right patient, at the right dose, by the right route and at the right time,” said Dianna Ringer, Director of the Mon General Hospital Pharmacy. “At any time during the administration process, if the computer software detects that what the patient is about to be given is not right in any way, it will alert the nurse to stop the administration of the drug.”

    The first Mon General Hospital nursing unit to “go live” with bedside medication verification using bar code scanners was 6 North Medicine on June 5.

    “The Go Live for the 6 North Medicine unit went very well,” Ringer said. “Everyone was prepared and it paid off.  The nursing staff is very optimistic and sees this change as increased safety for our patients and peace of mind for them.”

    In the coming months, the remaining nursing units at Mon General Hospital will be going live with bedside medication verification, beginning with 5 South (Surgery/Ortho/Peds) in July; 4 South and 4 North in August; ICU, CCU and 5N (Oncology) in September and the Birth Center in October.

    “The medications supplied by the Pharmacy Department are in single-use packages with a pre-printed bar code containing the National Drug Code (NDC) number or some other unique identifier,” Ringer said. “Patients are issued wristbands with a bar-coded unique patient identifier on admission to the hospital. The nurse has a bar code scanner that is linked to the Admission, Discharge and Transfer (ADT) database; the Pharmacy information system; and software to control the process.

     “When a patient is to receive medication, the nurse scans his or her bar-coded employee badge, the patient’s wristband and each package of medication to be administered at the bedside,” she said. “The system will verify the dispensing authority of the caregiver, confirm the patient’s identity, match that identity with the patient’s medication profile in the Pharmacy information system, check for any alerts or reminders for the nurse, electronically record the action in the online Medication Administration Record and store the information in the patient’s medical record.”

    Bedside Medication Verification has been in the planning stages for approximately two years. A “Bar-coded Meds” task force was formed in April 2010 and used an assessment tool provided by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices to determine readiness to commence bedside medication verification.



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