The field of medicine is growing at an alarming rate. With a 500% increase in the number of medications in the last decade and more than 17,000 trade and generic pharmaceuticals marketed within the United States alone, the importance of attention to detail cannot be overstated.

Along with the medical industry, the field of technology has been making some pretty impressive strides as well. Modern technology presents some helpful options for collecting, organizing and tracking data that we never would have imagined possible. For example, barcode systems and data collection systems can help a medical facility track patients and respective medications (type, dosage, frequency, etc.) in order to ensure patient safety.

A Case Study

Sutter Health, a California network of hospitals, community-based cardiac and cancer care centers, rehabilitation clinics, and behavioral health centers decided to take this possibility and turn it into a reality. Their goal is to place a bar code scanner at every bedside throughout their 26-hospital network.

In 2003, they introduced Bridge Medical’s eMAP bar code system into 10 of the 26 hospitals. This bar code system would read bar coded wristbands, medications and staff badges in order to improve patient safety. The eMAP system would notify Sutter Health staff about patient allergies and other critical information such as drug interactions, potential look- or sound-alike medications and high-risk drugs.

As an added measure, Sutter Health also chose to rely on Zebra Technologies for bar coding print solutions in their pharmacy across all 26 locations. This would ensure the accuracy and dependability of their bar coding system, which would directly benefit Sutter Health patients and staff.

Improved Accuracy and Patient Safety

How successful has this process been? In the inaugural year of the bar code system, Sutter Health administered 2.6 million drugs. It is estimated that the new system prevented 28,000 medication errors, about 9 percent of which could have caused moderate to severe clinical effects. In a field where even one negative result could have potentially fatal consequences, that’s huge. Sutter Health has been so impressed with the roll-out of this data collection system that they plan to implement the bar coding system throughout their entire network one year ahead of schedule. In addition, Sutter’s doctors have enjoyed the improved accuracy so much that they are pushing for a fully functional EMR.

At this point it’s no question whether or not the field of medicine can benefit from data collection systems. The only question that remains is “how long will it take for everyone to get onboard?”

Sutter Health Case Study: Barcode solutions and patient safety

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