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Bar Codes Cut Down on Hospital Medication Errors
Date:5/5/2010

Study found electronic safety system halved potentially adverse events

WEDNESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- A system that checks medications and doses using bar codes significantly cuts down on hospital drug errors, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston report.

"We had the opportunity to design and implement a bar code-scanning system to ensure that every patient in the hospital gets the right medication at the right dose at the right time," said lead researcher Dr. Eric G. Poon, the hospital's director of clinical informatics.

"After implementing that new system, we found dramatic reductions in errors made during the process of administering medications," he added. Poon estimates that using this system prevents 90,000 serious errors each year.

The report is published in the May 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The bar code-scanning system is a safeguard that helps prevent medication errors from the time a prescription is ordered through each time the drug is given.

Using the coding system with electronic medical records, medication orders appear electronically in the patient's chart after pharmacist approval. If giving a medication is overdue, an alert is sent to nurses electronically.

In addition, before nurses give medications they are required to scan the bar codes on the patient's wristband and then on the medication itself. Should the two not match the approved medication order, or if it is too soon for the patient's next dose, the nurse receives a warning.

For the study, Poon's team compared 6,723 medication administrations before the bar code system was in use with 7,318 medication administrations after the system was introduced.

The researchers found that bar codes reduced errors such as giving a medicine at the wrong time and giving patients the wrong dose.

They also found a 41 percent drop in administr
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