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Hospitals slow to meet barcode standard

The right medication can be a lifesaver. Unfortunately, more than half of all patients admitted to the hospital suffer a medication error1. The wrong medication, wrong patient, harmful interactions with food or other drugs, allergies, and poor communication are among the hazards involved in the process of administering medications in the hospital. Given the complexity of the environment and potential hazards involved, technology aimed at preventing medication errors is not only helpful, but in many cases lifesaving.

The annual Leapfrog Hospital Survey is the only source of publicly reported data on hospitals’ effective use of two key technologies known to reduce medication errors: Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA), which studies suggest can reduce errors by up to 93%, and Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE), shown to reduce errors by up to 88%. This report examines U.S. hospital performance in preventing medication errors in hospitals as measured on the 2016 Leapfrog Hospital Survey.

BCMA systems are electronic scanning systems that intercept medication errors at the point of administration. A nurse scans a bar code on a patient’s wristband to confirm he or she is the right patient, then scans a similar bar code on the prescribed medication to verify the remaining four of what’s known as the “Five Rights of Medication Administration”: right drug, dose, time, and route. In one study, when nurses used a BCMA solution as directed, the error rate in administering medications was reduced by up to 93%

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