Use of bar codes for medication administration cut medication errors not related to timing of administration by 41% in a large hospital, a study has found.
In a review of 14,041 observed medication administrations and 3,082 order transcriptions, observers noted 776 nontiming errors in medication administration on units that did not use the bar code system (an 11.5% error rate) versus 495 such errors on units that did use it (a 6.8% error rate; P<0.0001), according to Eric G. Poon, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues.
“Because the study hospital administers approximately 5.9 million doses of medications per year, use of the [bar code system] is expected to prevent approximately 95,000 potential adverse drug events at the point of medication administration every year in this hospital,” they reported in the May 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Hospital medication errors are common and often lead to patient harm. The authors cited one study that identified 6.5 adverse events related to medication use per 100 inpatient admissions, with more than a quarter of those events due to preventable errors.