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News : National Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Aug 26, 2013 - 1:30:34 PM

Barcodes Reduce Medication Errors in Emergency Departments

By Staff Editor
Aug 26, 2013 - 1:27:13 PM

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( - COLUMBUS, Ohio - A study recently conducted at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in collaboration with Ohio State University's College of Pharmacy shows the use of barcode-assisted medication administration (BCMA) technology significantly reduces errors in an emergency care setting.

While this technology has proven to help reduce medication errors among hospitalized patients, it is not routinely used in emergency departments because many are not fully integrated with electronic medical records.

"One observational study we reviewed showed that medication errors reach nearly 6 out of 10 patients seen in the average emergency department in the United States," said Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce, chief quality and patient safety officer at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center and senior author of the study. "About a third of those errors occur while the medication is being administered, so certainly there is opportunity for improving patient safety."

For their study, recently published online by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, the researchers observed nearly two thousand medication administrations in Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center's emergency department before and after BCMA was implemented as part of a new electronic medical record system in 2011. Before bar coding, the baseline medication administration error rate was 6.3 percent (63 cases) with a majority being wrong dose errors. Of those errors, only one case required intervention.

"We had anticipated a higher medication administration error rate in an emergency department due to the speed and complexity of the care process in that emergent setting," said Robert Weber, senior director of pharmacy services at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center and a co-author of the study.

After adding the use of BCMA, overall medication administration errors dropped more than 80 percent to a rate of 1.2 percent (12 cases). Wrong dose mistakes were reduced by 90 percent.

"This study demonstrates that barcode-assisted medication administration improves patient safety in an emergency department setting. As more hospitals implement this technology across their entire care systems, it's important to carefully coordinate across pharmacy, physicians and nursing to ensure success," said Moffatt-Bruce.


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