Ready, Set, Scan

Northfield Hospital nurses are using bar code technology at the bedside to ensure patients receive the right medication at the right time.

The initiative, called “Ready, Set, Scan,” is part of an ongoing effort to increase patient safety and minimize medical errors. According to Gary Anderson, RPh, chief pharmacist at Northfield Hospital, preventable medical errors in hospitals often revolve around the administration of medication. Hospitals that have employed bar code technology have seen a dramatic reduction in mistakes.

“Bar coding medications at the bedside will ensure accuracy and allow our nurses to deliver on the “Five Rights:” Right patient. Right medication. Right route. Right time and Right dose,” Anderson said.

Each patient room in the hospital now has a computer and a bar code imager. When it is time to administer a medication, the nurse will scan the patient’s identification wristband and then scan the meds. If there isn’t a match, the nurse will back up and correct the issue. The system is integrated seamlessly into the hospital’s electronic medical record and allows for real time documentation, eliminating the need for manual documentation, another opportunity for error.

Northfield Hospital dispenses more than 200,000 doses of medication annually. Anderson said this brings a level of safety not previously available. Only 5 percent of the nation’s hospitals use this technology, but Anderson says its time has come.

“Retail stores have done it for years,” Anderson said. “Why not healthcare?”