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Hospital begins bar coding wristbands for safety
Bar coding is familiar to everyone who shops, with electronic scanners reading product information and price after a quick swipe of the black and white tag through a scanner. This technology is now being used at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center to ensure a higher level of patient safety and service.
Hospital patients now get a bar code on their hospital identification wristband that improves how medication is delivered to each individual patient. The new bar coding program was launched recently at UCSD's Thornton Hospital in La Jolla, CA, and Hillcrest Medical Center in San Diego. The bar coded wristband is one additional safety feature for the hospital's computerized integrated medication system, says Deborah Wayne, RN, MSN, MBA, Thornton Hospital's director of nursing.
"With this system, the physician enters the prescription online, and the pharmacist can immediately review the medication order. The nurse will also see the medication order on the electronic medication record," she says. "The computerized system eliminates the possibility of transcription errors."
The bar code on the patient's wristband corresponds to the patient identified in the medication order, to ensure the correct patient is receiving the correct medication. The health care provider can scan the information easily using a portable computer and scanner. Debbie Winter, director of nursing informatics, helped to lead the initiative. The computer program contains a profile of all the medications that specific patient is taking and how the drug needs to be administered — whether orally or by syringe, for instance — as well as the time, Winter says. "This new system ensures what are commonly known as 'the five rights': the right medicine at the right dose, given at the right time to the right patient via the right route," she says.
The bar code on the medication packaging itself corresponds to the exact prescription ordered by the physician, which ensures that the correct medication has been dispensed by the pharmacy and chosen by the nurse. The new system incorporates several important medical safety recommendations outlined in the July 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Health. The IOM report recommended that hospitals adopt computerized systems for prescribing drugs and use other information technology that shows promise for reducing the number of drug-related mistakes.
Wayne says the UCSD team spent several months preparing to launch the bar coding system with tasks ranging from troubleshooting computer interfaces to creating an entire bar code library of all the drugs in the UCSD pharmacies. While the Food and Drug Administration has issued regulations requiring the standardized bar coding of all packaged medications, there still is a small percentage that require local bar coding. Not all medications had bar codes that were readable.