We’re all used to having bar codes of various types scanned at some point in our lives, from checking in our tickets at sporting grounds to checking out our groceries at the local supermarket. Now, bar-code verification technology is being used to check that patients are getting the right medicines at the right time in a 735-bed tertiary academic medical centre in the US — Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Unit nurses are required to scan the bar codes on a patient’s wristband and on their medication before it is administered. If the dose does not correspond to a valid pharmacist-approved medication order, the application issues a warning. Previously, nurses manually verified the dose and the patient’s identity before medication was given. Over a 9-month period of observation, it was found that this bar-code technology significantly reduced, but did not eliminate, errors in medication administration. The bar-code medication-verification technology is embedded within a broader, integrated electronic medication-administration system.
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