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Bar Coding To Reduce Mistakes With Administration Of Medication

A Kansas hospital is using a bar coding system- the same technology that allows grocery clerks to quickly scan bags of groceries– to help with verification when administering medication at the bedside.

Many hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities are quickly seeking new ways to cut down on the number of mistakes involving medication errors.  Following the lead of many health insurers, new Medicare rules will deny payment for avoidable errors made by hospitals and nursing homes.iStock_000006641959XSmall

Experts estimate that 40 percent of medication errors are made with the physician’s written order. But another 40 percent are made at the point at which medication is administered.  “We know medication errors occur in hospitals… we want to cut down on that.”  Jim Garrelts, a pharmacy director.

Unlike errors with physician orders, which pharmacists and nursing staff can potentially catch, there is little that can be done to prevent errors associated with errors made in the administration of medication.  This is where the bar coding system will have the biggest impact.  The bar coding system is intended to reduce medication errors with administration of medication.

With a bar code system, the nurses will scan the hospital id bracelet on the patient and the medication.  If there is any error with the type of medication or the dosage, the system will notify the nurse immediately.  The system provides one more opportunity to prevent human errors before a patient receives medication.

Hospitals and nursing homes that implement this system should be commended for their commitment to patient safety.  The facilities will likely reap benefits in a reduction of the number of claims associated with medication errors.  The National Hospital Association estimates that medication errors cost facilities between $5,000 and $7,000 per mistake.

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