Barcode System Could Eliminate Bedside Pharmaceutical Errors

Barcode System Could Eliminate Bedside Pharmaceutical Errors

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Ed Yeates ReportingThe Government should mandate barcoding for every drug administered to hospital patients, and if they don't pass a bedside scanner test they shouldn't be given them -- that's the call today from the head of a Utah hospital pharmacy follwing tragic accidents in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Two weeks ago, three preemies at an Indianapolis hospital died after an adult dose of a blood thinner was given by mistake. At the University of Utah Hospital, pharmacists laid out two vials of heparin for us, to show the similarities, but the dramatic difference in doses.

James Jorgenson says the accident should never have happened.

James Jorgenson, Pharmacy Services Director, U of U Hospital: "Had that been a bar code system, it would have prevented that error from every happening. I think clearly we're at a point where the Institutes of Medicine report the number of errors that occur, that we should have barcoding for everything."

Barcode System Could Eliminate Bedside Pharmaceutical Errors

The University of Utah Hospital is already using barcoding. Once the order comes through, the system checks for accuracy, then rotates bins to the exact location of the drug. Pharmacists still have to confirm they have the right one in hand by scanning bar codes again. If it's wrong the system refuses to print a prescription label. Yet again, drugs must pass a third checkout before they leave the pharmacy.

Within two years, the next phase of the University of Utah's project goes from this final check in the pharmacy itself, but now you've got the medicine on the floor in the patient's room. In parallel with a computer, you are scanning and doublechecking right up until the pill goes into the mouth or the medicine is injected into the veins.

In addition to requiring bar coding, Joregenson believes there should be stiff penalties if health care workers fail to use the system. That's apparently what happened a few months ago at a Wisconsin hospital.

James Jorgenson: "They had the complete barcode system all the way from the pharmacy to the point of care at bedside, and someone skipped it because they were busy. A 16-year old patient was given penicillin intravenously by mistake and she died."

Bar codes in all hospitals and a pharmaceutical industry that uses the same coding symbols? Jorgenson says it's time the FDA not just suggest it, but make it so. Jorgenson claims bar coding is not only safer, but it can increase efficiency in hospital pharmacies by 30 percent.

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