Study Shows Barcode eMAR Technology Can Help Reduce Medication Errors

In a recent blog, our Maryland pharmacy error injury attorneys discussed reducing medication error and patient injury with barcode electronic systems, that link barcodes on the patient’s wrist bracelet with the patient’s electronic records and prescriptions, to ensure that the medication and dosage match the prescription for the patient.

According to a recent study that the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Rockville, Maryland, has funded, barcode technology, working together with eMAR, the electronic medication administration system, can help reduce medication errors by over 50%. The study was published earlier this year, in the May issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Barcode eMAR combines technology to ensure that each patient is given the proper medication with the correct dosage at the right time, in order to prevent medication errors or patient injury. When this combination of technology is used, before administering the medication, the nurses must scan the barcode on the patient’s wrist bracelet, and then scan the medication. If both barcodes don’t match the approved medication, or the timing is not correct for the patient’s next dose, an alert is issued by the system. If the patient’s medication is overdue, warnings are also sent out to the nurses.

In the study, researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared 6,723 medication administrations given on hospital units before the barcode eMAR was introduced with the 7,318 administrations of medication given after the barcode system was introduced.

According to study author Eric G. Poon, M.D., M.P.H., implementing the new barcode system showed dramatic results of error reduction during the process of medication administration, such as the timing of administered medications, as well as medication administration errors that were not related to timing, such as incorrect doses. Poon projected that the technology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is preventing around 90,000 serious medication errors a year, that could potentially result in patient harm or injury.

The AHRQ states that the findings in this report have significant implications as barcode eMAR technology is being examined as a 2013 criterion for health information technology use under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

AHRQ Study Shows Using Bar-Code Technology with eMAR Reduces Medication Administration and Transcription Errors, AHRQ, May 5, 2010
Hospital Medication Technology Can Cut Mistakes by Tens of 1000s, Qmed, May 2010
Effect of Bar-Code Technology on the Safety of Medication Administration, The New England Journal of Medicine, May 6, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Institute of Medicine (IOM)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Medication Error Reports

Institute for Safe Medication Practices, (ISMP)

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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