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2015 Annual Report Selected Highlights

Medication Barcoding Enhances Patient Safety

a person scanning a barcode bracelet

The Clinical Center has implemented a new system to help avoid medication administration errors and keep patients safe. The Institutes of Medicine estimate that at least 44,000 deaths per year are associated with preventable harm in hospitals.

Upon admission, each patient is given a wristband with a personalized barcode. All medications used in the Clinical Center are logged and also have an individual barcode. Before a medical professional administers a drug to a patient, the medication and the patient's barcodes are scanned. If the barcode scans do not match, then the healthcare professional is immediately notified and the order is reviewed.

Barcodes have been used in admissions to the Clinical Center since 2007. Since then, their use has expanded to medications stocked in automated dispensing cabinets in 2009, tracking patients' lab specimens in 2010 and dispensing take home medications from the outpatient pharmacy system in 2011.

Medication bedside barcoding began as a pilot on selected units in January 2014 and was fully implemented throughout the Clinical Center in March 2014.

The barcode initiative was a collaborative effort by the Clinical Center's Department of Clinical Research Informatics, the Pharmacy Department, the Respiratory Care and Therapy Service, the Nursing Department and the Office of the Director.

To support this technology and manage the increased volume of data, the Clinical Center provides a wireless network that can reach all areas of the facility where patients are being treated.

To prepare for this program, the Pharmacy Department had to review all of the medications in its inpatient inventory and track all of the new investigational medications released for use by the Pharmaceutical Development Section of the Pharmacy. To ensure the program works effectively, the individual barcode for each individual dose of medication must be scanned and entered into the Pharmacy's database. Scanning all of the barcodes of the Clinical Center's inventory took pharmacy staff over four months to complete. Pharmacy staff continue to scan and track each medication brought into the Clinical Center on a daily basis.

Finally, nurses who provide the medication to patients were fully trained on how to work with the system, learning in a hands-on environment that reflected the daily realities that nurses and patients face.

Medication Barcoding Enhances Patient Safety

1,600 New barcodes added to the Clinical Center database.

4,400 Medications in the Clinical Center inpatient inventory.

35,000 Barcodes scanned by the Clinical Center Pharmacy Department.

Source: Pharmacy Department, NIH Clinical Center

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This page last updated on 07/27/2017

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