Magazine article Drug Topics

Bar-Coding/e-MARs Offer Comfort of a Safety Net

Magazine article Drug Topics

Bar-Coding/e-MARs Offer Comfort of a Safety Net

Article excerpt

Does bedside bar-coding when used in conjunction with electronic medication administration record (MAR) technology represent the Holy Grail of medication error prevention in hospitals? You wouldn't think so, considering that only about 137% of health systems nationwide are implementing bar-code technology. But for the hospitals that have had the opportunity to roll out these systems, the benefits, particularly as they relate to patient safety, are irrefutable.

The ability of bedside bar-code administration and electronic MARs to catch adverse events and medication errors before they reach patients and then to generate reports and track emerging trends is revolutionizing the way pharmacists, nurses, and physicians are managing patient safety concerns. "It's the best thing for patient safety to come around in a long time," said Sal Ferrito, R.Ph., director of pharmacy at Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pompton Plains, NJ. "With bar-coding, nurses can't give the drug to the wrong patient, or dispense the wrong dose. The system stops them from doing that. You have to match the patient with the administration record and the drug. It all has to match up."

Chilton recently rolled out a barcoding system and an on-line MAR in its cardiac intermediate care unit. In June, the system will be operational across all departments. Chilton is using a computer-on-wheels workstation from Columbus, Ohiobased Artromick International and a bedside medication verification system from MEDITECH of Westwood, Mass. "It's very user-friendly for the nurse and doesn't require a lot of IT knowledge," said Mary Rich, R.N., VP chief nurse executive.

The marriage of electronic MARs and bedside bar-coding gives clinicians the ability not only to track near misses, but also to determine how mistakes manage to get so far down the line without being detected. "You have a pool of data that you never had before/' said Ferrito.

The MAR/bar-code initiative has created a cohesive check-and-balance system and has enhanced the relationship between pharmacists and nurses. Under the new system, patient orders are faxed to the pharmacy where a pharmacist enters the order into the pharmacy information system and then verifies the order. …

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