Medication Error Prevention and Identification Solutions: Incorporating RFID Technologies and Barcode Systems to Reduce Human Errors in Healthcare

Medical error reporting is a widely debated issue, and justifiably so. There are no concrete statistics for the prevalence of medical errors due to the lack of effective medical error reporting systems. However, estimates from the Institute of Medicine indicate that, on average, the number of Americans who die each year from medical errors is 71,000. Due to the inconsistency of medical error reporting, the patients who die each year from receiving the wrong care, or the right care provided incorrectly, are incalculable.

What is more alarming than these estimates is the fact that an overwhelming majority of physicians still do not believe medical errors to be a principal health concern; in fact, only 3% of physicians do. This statistic, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, is curious considering that medical errors kill more Americans each year than AIDS, breast cancer or vehicular accidents. Instead of the healthcare industry denying that medical errors are a pressing issue, the medical error reporting systems should be augmented. Only with recognition of the problem and the improvement of medical error reporting can the mission of preventing medical error be successful.

The general cause for most medical errors can be attributed to lack of care. Many common errors such as miscommunication of drug orders, dispensing incorrect drug amounts and anesthesia complications can be prevented by healthcare practitioners taking more care. Misdiagnosis and prescription errors can be linked to incomplete patient information concerning allergies, previous diagnoses and other medications. Unavailable drug information is the root of medical errors, including the mishandling of medicine and dispensing the wrong amount. Surgical complications such as wrong-site surgery and birth injuries are other medical errors commonly attributed to lack of patient consent and environmental factors in the healthcare facilities.

Though these types of medical errors abound, fewer than 17.5% of hospitals enable computerized drug ordering systems that can reduce medical errors by 86%. This disregard for the improvement of medical error reporting is what makes the situation so frustrating and dire. However, the question remains as to who is to blame for the lack of medical error reporting. Though medical errors may arise due to physician neglect, they can be greatly reduced by implementing medical error reporting systems into the healthcare facilities. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, many physicians say they would be willing participate in medical error reporting, but argue that medial error reporting systems are inadequate or non-existent (Source: Online Medication Order System Cuts Mistakes. 2008.) .

“Though medical errors arise due to physician neglect, they can be greatly reduced by implementing medical error reporting systems into the healthcare facilities.”

Although there are effective medical error reporting systems, such as that employed by the State of Indiana, the instances of medical error reporting still do not match the actual occurrences of errors. Many physicians attest that preventing medical errors must first begin with ground rules by which the medical error reporting systems will operate. The simple fact is that many physicians do not utilize medical error reporting because they fear admitting blame and malpractice lawsuits that may ensue. Physicians desire that the medical error reporting be kept confidential and undiscoverable. Also, healthcare practitioners prefer that the reviews of medical error reporting stay within a given department of the facility. By ensuring the clandestine nature of medical error reporting, preventing medical error can be a success. Since practitioners do not fear disciplinary action, there can be increased instances of medical error reporting, which aids in preventing medical error by unearthing the underlying cause of adverse treatment.

The most successful method of preventing medical error is through the use of barcode systems. The barcoding system aids in medical error reporting by tracking medical errors. Statistics have shown that the implementation of this barcoding system in healthcare facilities decreases the medical error rate by 70% over a five-year interval. This barcoding system is time efficient and aids in root cause analysis, thereby preventing medical errors in the future.

Patients can also do their part in preventing medical errors. Patients should be sure to receive their patient informed consent policy prior to medical treatment. Also, patients should receive a second opinion from a different doctor to ensure the legitimacy of their treatment. In preventing medical error with prescriptions, patients should always research the name of their prescription and verify the amount prescribed.

“The most successful method of preventing medical error is through the use of barcode systems.”

Medical error reporting is functional if the proper steps are taken by physicians and healthcare facilities to ensure its frequency. Preventing medical error can only be efficacious by imposing proper medical error reporting systems. The harrowing statistics of preventable deaths caused by medical errors are enough reason to implement changes in the system now. With further patient and physician responsibility, coupled with efficient medical error reporting systems, the instances of medical errors resulting in fatalities can be lessened and possibly eradicated.

For more information about iTech Automation’s barcoding system solutions and medical error prevention products and services, contact us .

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