Bar codes insure patient safety at St. Bernards - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Bar codes insure patient safety at St. Bernards

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Bar codes aren't just pricing items at the store anymore.  Now they're a safety mechanism for dispensing medication at St. Bernards.  

The hospital announced the implementation of a system utilizing bar codes and software totaling over 20 million dollars this afternoon.  Of that total cost, it took 1.8 million to pay for the bar code portion of the system.  Computer software, technical support, training and integration of all hospital programs were necessary to make the bar code technology run smoothly.

Patients are assigned a bar code upon admission and the codes track medication administered by nurses and dispensed by the pharmacy.

"The number one technology released was bedside medication verification," said Brenda Million, Vice-President and Chief Nursing Officer at St. Bernards.  "They have seen a tremendous decrease in medication errors."

Meditech makes the integrated system of health care technology possible.  It ties the clinical side of medicine to the revenue side and allows patients to have all of this reflected in their electronic records.  Doctors can see when patients received medication, by what method and whether or not patients have allergies that might interact with certain prescriptions.

St. Bernards actually began to use the program in March of 2010.  Utilization of the bedside medication verification system puts St. Bernards in the top 5% of hospitals in the nation, according to a hospital press release.

Not all medications received by the hospital's pharmacy have bar codes.  So, that means St. Bernards pharmacy has to have its own medication packaging machine.

"It prints out a label and says here's this patient and here is the drug they need," said Dr. Willie Capers, Director of Pharmacy at St. Bernards.  "They scan it and they scan the actual drug.  If you have the wrong drug in your hand, it says hey...that's wrong."

Dr. Capers says bar coding reduces the risk of error.  Once the medication is entered into Meditech, a carousel containing medication spins to the proper location of that medicine and displays a light to show the pharmacy technician the location of the medication.  The tech scans the barcoded label and the medication to verify that it is the correct medication for the correct patient.

Three hundred of St. Bernards' hospital rooms are outfitted with computers and scanners as part of the health information system.  It all becomes part of the patient's electronic record.

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