Bar-Code Technology Can Enhance Patient Safety

By Milenkovich, Ned | Drug Topics, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Bar-Code Technology Can Enhance Patient Safety


Milenkovich, Ned, Drug Topics


B kar-code technology is widespread in the general retail environ - ment and is typically used to maintain product pricing information and to track inventory movement.

While its advantages have not yet been fully exploited in the hospital and community-pharmacy settings, bar-code systems of medication administration are being used to improve overall medication safety through verification that the right drug is being administered to the right patient at the right time.

Several studies have shown that bar-code technology can significantly reduce errors in medication dispensing and administration. As technology continues to advance, it will be incumbent on pharmacy stakeholders to implement patient safety measures and for pharmacy boards to provide a regulatory framework that allows for this useful innovation.

Bar-code technology has been shown to be useful in the hospital pharmacy setting. Most pharmacists would agree that using bar-code technology in their hospital pharmacies has made their workflow easier and more efficient. Studies conducted in healthcare facilities run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have shown that technology, specifically the use of bar- coding, is making patients' hospital stays safer, particularly in the area of medication dispensing and administration.

From the hospital to the community setting

Similar initiatives to translate hospital use of bar-code technology into the community -pharmacy setting have been successful. Use of bar-code technology frees the pharmacist from product-verification functions and allows for increased patient engagement in higher-level clinical services.

In the case of mail-order pharmacies that often serve a nationwide patient base, use of sophisticated technology such as bar- coding enables these operations to process high volumes of prescription drugs for an extensive list of recipients.

Properly trained pharmacy technicians can effectively use bar-code technology in dispensing medication. Use of bar-code technology provides assurances that each prescription is properly validated and fulfilled while a retrievable audit trail is maintained. …

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