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

ation errors and a 51 percent drop in potential adverse drug events.

In addition, errors in the timing of medication administration, such as giving a medication an hour or more off schedule, fell 27 percent. There were no errors or potential drug-related adverse events from this type of error, Poon's group noted.

The findings are important because the technology is being considered as a 2013 criterion for meaningful use of health information technology under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the researchers noted.

Poon noted that cost is a barrier that deters many hospitals from implementing such a system. "Cost is always a concern," he said. Their system cost about $10 million, he noted.

Whether preventing errors saves money isn't known, but the study authors plan on doing a cost-benefit analysis of the system.

Dr. Chris Longhurst, medical director of clinical informatics at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., said that "this adds evidence to the mounting pile that the last piece guaranteeing or verifying medication safety is bar coding."

Longhurst's own study, published in the May 3 online edition of Pediatrics, showed that using a computerized doctor prescription system actually saves lives, reducing mortality by 20 percent.

These results of using the computerized system are very encouraging, Longhurst said. "In fact, we were seeing sicker and sicker children at our hospital, and yet seeing fewer and fewer who were dying," he said. "That's really the most surprising finding."

One reason lives are being saved is that the time from when a doctor writes a prescription until it is available to the patient has been cut significantly, Longhurst said.

"Another really important aspect is just simple access to information," he said.

Nir Menachemi, an associate professor and director of Health Care Organization and Policy at th
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