Drug Identification and Medication Management in Healthcare

For the healthcare industry, simple errors can result in severe repercussions. One of these repercussions is known as Adverse Drug Event (ADE). ADE describes drug administration errors that include: incorrect drug selection, incorrect dosage or frequency and negative interactions. ADEs can result from the wrong medication being prescribed, the wrong medication being distributed by the pharmacy, or the wrong administration of medication at the bedside.

Barcoding technology was introduced into the healthcare system to reduce the complications and errors of both patient and drug identification. However, different institutions and companies adopted different labelling and identifications systems, resulting in groups of pharmaceutical products ending up with several different barcodes on them.

In 2012, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Bar Coding Project issued barcode technology requirements for Canadian pharmaceuticals, based on the GS1 global automated identification standard. Barcodes are used for prescription labelling to standardize drug identification across the healthcare industry to ensure the correct medication is prescribed and delivered to the right patient.

Standards require barcode information to include the registered 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN). The DIN identifies the name of the product and manufacturer, active ingredients and their strengths, pharmaceutical form, and route of administration. Additional information that may be included in medication barcodes include the prescription number, expiration date, and lot number to quickly identify and remove any counterfeit medication.

A study conducted in 2010, found that proper barcode usage prevented approximately 90,000 serious medication errors each year and reduced the mortality rate by 20%. One study also noted that the use of barcodes reduced medication administration errors by 82%. Standardized barcode labelling and proper scanning technology have improved the ability to deliver accurate and safe patient care across the healthcare industry.

Proper implementation of medical barcode labeling consists of the use of supporting technology so patient data can be quickly retrieved. For example, a nurse can use a handheld barcode reader to scan the barcode on a patient’s wristband to verify if he/she is administering the right medication, to the right patient, at the right dose, at the right time. With a mobile computer, the nurse can access additional patient data and electronic health records.

2D barcodes are becoming more prevalent in healthcare for identifying patients for all medications. Many hospitals are still using 1D barcodes for glucose readers and other applications. An issue nurses experience with 1D scanners are the curvature of patient wristbands make it difficult to scan, so nurses have to stretch out the wristband with one hand to make it flat enough for the scanner to read the barcode. Since 2D scanning is able to register barcodes from any angle, healthcare companies and organizations have started implementing handheld imager technology that combines both 1D and 2D barcode scanning to minimize devices and maximize patient and medication accuracy.

Nova Communications has been a long-time partner of Zebra Technologies, a pioneer in mobile computing, scanning, and printing technologies that connect healthcare systems across the globe. This very technology has enabled hospitals like Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, to achieve 99% accuracy in patient and medication identification. To learn more about how to leverage technology to improve drug identification in healthcare, contact our team of specialists today.

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