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Memorial Hospital Implements Bar Coding System for Patient Safety

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Memorial Health System of East Texas is setting a higher standard for patient safety. The hospital now is tracking all patient medications and personal information through a simple bracelet which is placed on the patient during the admissions process.

It is called Electronic Medication Administration Record (eMAR). This technology is designed to immediately provide patient care information to physicians and nurses while lowering the risk of medication errors.

eMAR is part of Memorial’s core pharmacy information system where all aspects of a patient’s medication orders are recorded. The critical components of this safety technology are bar coded armbands, bar coded medications, and safety checks within the eMAR and bar coding software. “This technology helps lower the risk of medication errors while making a patient’s medication record readily available to physicians and nurses,” said Kathy Griffin, Director of Pharmaceutical Services at Memorial Health System of East Texas. “It is now required that all medications be bar coded before they are put in the automatic dispensing machines that are located on patient floors”

Patients getting the proper medications reentered the news a couple of years ago after the twin children of actor Dennis Quaid were put at risk when they were allegedly given an accidental overdose of the anti-coagulant drug Heparin, which stops the blood from clotting. It is alleged that the medication vials were not labeled correctly.

“Bar codes definitely help identify a product and serves as a safety net for hospital personnel administering medication,” said Ms. Griffin. “The system is designed to promote patient safety while providing medication confirmation for the nursing staff.”

By scanning the wristband of the patient, the nurse has a computer record of that patient and what medications they are suppose to get. The nursing staff still follows Joint Commission protocol by verbally asking the patient to identify themselves by giving their name and date of birth. Once it is determined that the nurse is treating the assigned patient, the caregiver then scans each medicine before administering it to the patient. If there is a medication conflict, the technology alerts the nurse before a patient is given the medication and the system will not allow the nurse to continue. At that point, the nurse consults with the hospital pharmacy to troubleshoot the discrepancy. In most cases the medication in question is returned to the pharmacy and replaced. Once the medication is bar coded, it is checked and verified again by the staff to make sure the right bar code was put on the appropriate medication.eMAR technology helps the nursing staff meet five basic criteria in distributing medication. Those include making sure caregivers have the right patient, the right medications, the proper dosage, the appropriate form (whether injection or oral) and the right frequency.

“The eMAR system should make patients feel safer,” said Mario Estrella, Vice President of Patient Services at Memorial Health System of East Texas. “It also validates our nurses’ actions while making them feel more secure in how they care for their patients.”

The eMAR system was implemented hospital-wide at Memorial Medical Center—Lufkin on July 7, 2009. Memorial Health System plans to have all of its hospitals on the bar coding system within the next year.

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