Eisenhower Memorial Hospital applies Bridge's barcode technology to prevent medication and transfusion errors

Rancho Mirage 16 May 2002Eisenhower Medical Center (EMC) will embark on a programme to use barcode technology to intercept both medication and blood transfusion errors at the hospital bedside. EMC has contracted to begin deploying Bridge Medical's MedPoint patient safety software system at its 261-bed Eisenhower Memorial Hospital. In addition to Eisenhower Memorial, the Coachella Valley's only not-for-profit hospital, EMC also includes the Betty Ford Center, Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, and Annenberg Center for Health Sciences.


MedPoint is the only barcode-enabled point-of-care (BPOC) software system to afford hospitals the assurance of medication administration verification, blood product administration verification, and laboratory specimen identification. The award-winning technology has been endorsed by several hospital associations for its unique ability to keep hospital patients safe from these three common error categories.

"MedPoint acts as a safety net at the bedside before medications or blood products are administered", explained Bridge Senior vice president Kris Wanamaker. "Nurses scan the barcode of the medication or blood product to be administered, the patient's ID and their own ID. Through the use of expert databases and wireless communications, MedPoint enables the nurse to verify the five rights of medication administration including right patient, drug, dose, time, and route of administration, and check for safe dosing levels."

Confusion over the similarity of drug names, when either written or spoken, accounts for approximately fifteen percent of all errors reported to the U.S. Pharmacopeia Medication Errors Reporting (MER) Programme. In fact, the USP has identified hundreds of confusing drug name sets. These and other findings prompted the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) to require hospitals to review medication use policies and procedures to reduce the high potential for error of "look-alike" and "sound-alike" drugs.

In 1999, an Institute of Medicine report cited studies which demonstrated approximately one-half of adverse events resulting from medical errors could have been prevented. California, one of the first states to respond, enacted legislation requiring hospitals and other licensed health care facilities to submit formal plans to eliminate or substantially reduce medication errors by January 1, 2002.

"We included our intent to implement barcode technology in our error-reduction plan", stated EMH Pharmacy Director Ray Miller, PharmD. "Barcode technology like MedPoint has been extensively tested at hospitals around the country, so it was easy to describe how it will protect our patients from preventable medication errors. Barcode technology is clearly more affordable, effective, and easier to install than many of the other types of error-reduction technologies advocated today. Learning to use a barcode scanner is a lot easier than trying to remember the characteristics of all the drugs in the Eisenhower formulary."

With MedPoint scheduled to "go live" in early 2003, Dr. Miller said the hospital expects to comply with a newly enacted provision of the California Health and Safety Code, requiring facilities to implement their safety plans by January 1, 2005, way ahead of schedule. "MedPoint will also help us comply with many of the new JCAHO patient safety standards which take effect June 1 of this year as well."

"Eisenhower's error-reduction plan was not developed overnight", explained David B. Kaminsky, MD, chairman of Eisenhower's Pathology Department and the hospital board's Quality Committee. "We investigated a variety of error-reduction strategies, carefully assessing cost, outcomes, and implementation times. Barcoding, a proven technology, was clearly the single most effective one we found since it can intercept a significant percentage of potential medication errors in one easy swipe of the scanner."

"Barcoding has other major advantages", added Dr. Kaminsky. "We can implement MedPoint house-wide in one-third the time of a CPOE or computerised prescriber order entry system. And it costs 70 percent less. CPOE, a controversial error-reduction strategy advocated by Leapfrog, an employer group, only prevents errors during the medication-ordering phase. It does not impact the medication errors which occur during the medication-administration phase. Barcoding upon administration provides a safety net to catch errors that occur in all phases of the medication use process."

Dr. Kaminsky concluded: "We do plan to implement CPOE and a computerised patient record when the time is right. As we move towards full automation, barcoding helps acclimate our nurses to computer use at the point of care and provides an affordable solution which will have maximum impact on patient safety."

Founded in 1996, Bridge Medical Inc. is an information technology firm that has pioneered the use of barcode technology in health care. Headquartered in Solana Beach, California, Bridge has been honoured for its patient safety solutions and educational initiatives.

Leslie Versweyveld

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