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Bar Codes Enhance Patient Safety
Since November, 2008 Elkhart General has been using the bar code medication administration system, McKesson Horizon Admin Rx®, designed to enhance patient safety by eliminating the causes of many medication errors and alerting caregivers to potential problems before a medication is given.

“Barcode technology has been utilized in retail settings for years to assist with accuracy and it has finally made its way to healthcare. The process starts in the pharmacy,” Susan Hawes, the Director of the Pharmacy, stated. “When the inventory is received from the wholesaler, we ensure all medications have a bar code that is able to be scanned by our Admin RX System. An additional safety feature available to the pharmacists entering the physician order are “alerts” regarding allergies and interactions before the medication is dispensed to nurses on the unit. Then the most up to date patient medication list is available to nurses on a computer monitor in the patient room.”

“Admin Rx allows us to scan the bar code on the patient’s ID bracelet received upon admission and pull the correct patient identification up on our computer system,” explained Colleen Nowlin, Manager of Clinical Informatics. “Before medication is administered, scanning the bar code on the medication ensures that the right patient receives the right dose of the right medication at the right time.”

Bar coding eliminates the reliance on oral and handwritten communications along with minimizing dependence on transcription, translation and interpretation of physician orders, all of which are potential sources of medical errors. Bar coding also eliminates any potential confusion with medication names, particularly those that sound alike.